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Giants players react to team's playoff berth


Giants players discuss the team's playoff berth and goals for Week 17 and beyond:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings were more than 500 miles apart when the Giants clinched a playoff berth on Saturday, but they had identical experiences.

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"It was funny because I was out at dinner, and people were running up to me in the restaurant before I could even check the score and letting me know that we were in," Cruz said. "It's a good feeling."

Jennings was changing planes in Charlotte, N.C. on the way to his family home in Lynchburg, Va., when he received a text that New Orleans had defeated Tampa Bay, assuring the Giants would play in the postseason for the first time since 2011.

"I had to research it myself," said Jennings, who will be a playoff participant for the first time in his eight-year career. "I had to go and check with Google. I saw that the Saints won. I was like, 'Yes, it's true.' Then I got excited. I just screamed, 'Yes!' People looked at me crazy. I had some fans and people that recognized me come up to me and start yelling, 'We're going to the playoffs, we're going to the playoffs.' The word was out then. It was cool."

The Giants gathered today for the first time since learning they would be playoff participants. They held a jog-thru as they began preparing for their regular-season finale Sunday in Washington. The 8-6-1 Redskins can qualify for the postseason if they beat the Giants and the Sunday night game between Green Bay and Detroit doesn't end in a tie.

The Giants last played Thursday, when they lost in Philadelphia, 24-19. Because of that, they had to wait for the results of games played Saturday before they knew for certain they were in the playoffs. Green Bay and Atlanta won early games, but the Bucs fell in a late-afternoon game to clinch the berth for the 10-5 Giants.

The players had communicated primarily by text since late Saturday. Today, they congratulated each other in person. And while they are pleased and proud to take this first step, they want to defeat Washington and enter the playoffs on the upswing.

"It's huge," guard Justin Pugh said. "Obviously, just getting that confidence, that mojo going. Also, getting hot this time of year. This is the best time to get hot. We have to go out there and play good football. Take care of our business."

"(It's) very important," Cruz said. "You want to have momentum. Obviously winning, mentally, gives you that momentum. It makes you feel like you're ready to go into the postseason. We're excited about that opportunity and obviously beating Washington will start that off."

Unlike Cruz and Jennings, Pugh wasn't in a public place to receive congratulations from fans. He didn't find it unusual to clinch without his teammates, primarily because this is his first trip to the playoffs in his four seasons.

"I don't know what it is like to clinch when we are all together, so just to get in I was happy with," Pugh said. "I was celebrating with my family; it was Christmas Eve. Obviously, I would have loved to have been in that locker room with all the guys, but we were all texting each other and I got to celebrate with my family and we all watched together, so that was a pretty special moment for me and my family. But I know that each guy probably had something very similar to that happen and it was good.

"This is huge. I was getting goosebumps when the Saints took that kneel-down and I knew that we were going. It is something that is very special to me, very special to this fan base and obviously since being here, I wanted to get back for them and this organization and to go with a group of guys that I love so much and this group in here has been so close and it has been fun."

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard is one of the eight players on the active roster fortunate to make the playoffs as rookies. Like Pugh, he was with relatives when the big moment occurred.

"I was just chilling with some of my family for Christmas," Shepard said. "I was watching the games and found out that we got in. I was happy.

"I was just talking to the guys that have been here. They were just telling me that it is a blessing. A lot of guys don't get this chance. For me, being in here for my first year and being able to get in the playoffs, it's a blessing."

One the Giants will look to capitalize on when the postseason begins on Jan. 7 or 8.

"We just want to make sure we're appreciating the moments that you do with your teammates and in the postseason and things like that, and cherish those times," Cruz said. "Because you don't know when they're going to come again."

*The Giants today signed three players to their practice squad: quarterback Keith Wenning, running back Jacob Huesman, and safety Ryan Murphy.

Wenning, 6-3 and 225 pounds, was a sixth-round draft choice by the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, from Ball State. He spent that season on the Ravens' practice squad. After his release in June 2015, Wenning was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals, with whom he did stints on both the practice squad and active roster. He has not appeared in a regular-season game. In the 2016 preseason, Wenning completed 21 of 43 passes for 212 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was waived by Cincinnati on Sept. 3.

Huesman was a standout quarterback at Tennessee-Chattanooga. He holds school records for rushing yards with 4,051, touchdowns with 43, rushes with 788 and most 100-yard rushing games with 15. He spent time this year with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL, and has had several NFL tryouts.

Murphy, 6-0 and 213 pounds, was a seventh-round draft choice by the Seattle Seahawks in 2015, from Oregon State. He was released at the end of training camp spent most of the last two seasons on the practice squad of the Denver Broncos, who released him on Nov. 22.

*Two of the openings were created when members of the Giants' practice squad terminated their contacts to be signed to the active rosters of others teams: running back Russell Hansbrough and safety Christian Bryant.

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