EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Throughout the spring and early in training camp, Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and Robert Nunn, his defensive counterpart, have a standard answer when asked about the progress or performance of a specific player. "I won't know anything," they said, "until we put on the pads."
"It definitely is, because the offensive linemen need the pads, we need to get better hitting," left guard Geoff Schwartz said. "Even the other day in uppers (the Giants wore shoulder pads on Friday) didn't really have quite the same kind of intensity as we have with full pads. So it's good to get back out there. We've got a game soon (the Hall of Fame Game next Sunday), so we need to ramp up our intensity."
"It most definitely makes a difference just for the fact that you're able to go full tempo and get the looks that you're looking for," defensive tackle Mike Patterson said. "You don't have to worry about protecting yourself as much, because you're covered up with gear. It's a big part of our preparation. It helps get all of that little soreness. I think we did pretty good today."
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, an 11-year veteran, believes full-pad practices help reveal a lot about the team and not just individuals.
"I think the biggest thing about it is you find out, as a team on both sides, the level of competition, toughness, going back and forth trying to get each other better," Jenkins said. "We're all professionals and both sides are trying to win. You learn about people's attitudes, you see the fight, the determination, in everybody."
On Friday, for the first time in this camp, the offensive and defensive linemen engaged in one-on-one pass blocking/pass rushing drills. The intensity in those scrums increased today with the players wearing knee and thigh pads as well as shoulder pads.
"It definitely is fun to hit people, because you have that kind of pent up aggression," Schwartz said. "You've got to be smart about it. You've got to use it as time to get better. You don't want to be reckless out there, you have to use kind of controlled aggression because, in the end, the job is for us to get ready to play in the regular season. You've got to kind of be able to work on things at the same time."
"You finally get out there and get more game-like looks," Jenkins said. "You don't have to be so tentative, especially inside, because you take steps. But you're trying to hold back, you don't want to have any silly injuries or end up getting somebody in a bad situation. Now it's a little more, we get to fire off more, you get to feel true double-teams and work on your techniques with that stuff."
Jenkins has played in 149 regular-season and postseason NFL games, but each summer he has to adjust to against getting hit and knocked around.
"It's a constant fight, a constant mental battle," he said. "It's not just the collisions, the stance, you get off to your steps. It's constant. I was talking to some of the young guys about it. It's an everyday thing. I've changed my stance two, three times so far in camp, because you're always trying to make sure that you're in the best possible stance. You don't try to get satisfied and assume that you automatically can do it. You're always trying to improve and get better."
When Schwartz is getting ready to fire out of his stance and collide with Jenkins or Patterson, both he and his adversary are tip-toeing a fine line. They want to be aggressive and do everything necessary to impress their coaches. But that doesn't include making a move or taking any action that might injure a teammate.
"There's always a little bit of respect there," Schwartz said. "Our goal is controlled aggression. You want to be able to use your hands and use your head and use your shoulder pads, but you don't want to dump anybody on the ground and you want to be safe about it. You don't hit the quarterback, stuff like that. We're doing a good job so far. It's nice playing against veteran guys that know the right way to practice."
"The hitting helps us, especially up front, because that's what we rely on, all of the physical-ness," Patterson said. "We're able to get our hands on them, punching and then you don't have to worry about hurting anybody. It was a good thing for us."
Patterson and Jenkins have played a combined 19 NFL seasons. They were teammates in Philadelphia in 2011-12, when they learned how to help each other elevate their games in practice.
"Being there with Jenks, we both like switching around, depending on what type of play it is," Patterson said. "That's why I like working with Jenks; we're able to switch up back and forth and that's one of the things I like doing, too. I don't like to be stuck on one side."
The Giants are scheduled to be in full pads again on Monday. The linemen look forward to it.
"You have to hit," Schwartz said. "That's part of our game, you've got to be able to hit. As much as some people might not like it and we have a longer camp this year, you still have to kind of put the pads on and get your technique down. It's just about practicing smarter. When you're younger you're a little more out of control and all over the place. Now I know what I need to work on so I can go out there and get it done."
The best photos from Giants Training Camp practice!