The Giants held their most physical practice of Training Camp on Saturday:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today held their longest and most physically challenging practice of training camp, one that was scheduled for two hours, 14 minutes. But as Ben McAdoo proudly noted, "we finished about seven minutes ahead of schedule."
The practice featured much work on specific situations: red zone/green zone, goal line, etc.
"The tempo was outstanding, we had good physicality in there, good intensity," McAdoo said. "A lot of tight work down there and when you're playing down there tight it's a game of anticipation; can't have any hesitation, and we played with good speed on both sides of the ball. I thought it was a great day for special teams for us. We took a step in special teams. We had a competition – we split up some veteran guys, we split up the young guys. We kept score and they really competed their tail off today."
About that special teams drill…
"Blue is the old guys, yellow is the young guys," said cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a 10-year veteran. "You know, I'm all for the blue side. I like that drill, though. Everybody got a lot of competition, see what guys are made of, and it was fun."
"We basically had a scrimmage between the younger guys and the older guys on special teams, which I think we got a lot out of," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said.
So, who won?
"Blue," DRC said.
Aside from special teams, the players were pleased with what they had produced in the practice.
"I thought we had some good stuff," Eli Manning said. "Any time you get into the red zone emphasis practice, it's like a brand new offense. New plays, new stuff, it was good. Yesterday we got to walk-through the red zone stuff because when you are out there you want to make sure guys know what they are doing. Everything happens a little bit faster down there. So I thought we had some good things. Guys made some plays going up against a good defense. Defense made some plays as well and made some good calls, but we took care of the ball and got a few touchdowns."
"It's our fifth straight day before the break and that accumulation of days in training camp puts a lot on your body," Casillas said. "So you know coming in today guys were tired and weary, but it's competition first. Everybody was moving fast on offense and defense, so it was really good to get out there and have a physical practice right before the break (the Giants are off tomorrow).
"Everybody is going to be sore tonight. Everybody is going to need to hit the tubs and get their massages and do whatever they need to do to get ready for practice on Monday."
*Three days after rolling his ankle, wide receiver Sterling Shepard was running on the practice field without a limp.
"I made some pretty good progress over these last few days," Shepard said. "Been in the training room, getting ice. The swelling went down, so I got to run around a little bit today.
"It feels really good. If it was game day, I could easily go, but I have a little bit of time, so they want to take it slow."
Shepard admitted he was surprised to be running on the field so soon after he was hurt.
"I have never really rolled my ankle before, so I didn't really know the process and how it was going to go," he said. "Those first two days, I was feeling like I was going to be out for a little longer than what I know now."
*Manning changed roles yesterday when the Giants had a 70-minute jog-through. Instead of executing the plays, he called them, spending the entire workout with a walkie-talkie to relay the calls to fellow quarterbacks Geno Smith, Josh Johnson and rookie Davis Webb.
"They told me the night before they were going to give me tomorrow off, but that I was going to call the plays," Manning said.
And the verdict?
"I don't like it," Manning said. "You are kind of just by yourself, you can't talk to anyone else. As the plays go on, you get to watch it for a second, and then you are back down trying to figure out what's the next play to call. And that's just when it's scripted, so a lot of respect to the playcallers always. But it's kind of a lonely island out there when you gotta call them. I would rather be in the back watching plays, talking to receivers about scenarios and different things, but it was fun, it was a good experience."
Manning said he had called perhaps "six or seven" plays in previous jog-throughs, but not for entire session. He was one of several veterans to sit out the jog-through, but he alone had a role throughout.
"We wanted to give him a chance to stay dialed in mentally, and get those mental reps," McAdoo said. "Eli used a little empathy. He got to see how challenging it really is."
"Exactly," Manning said. "I was ready to get back today and even yesterday in the jog-through. At first, Sully (offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan) was like, 'I think you're not going again.' And I was like, 'Nope, I don't want to call plays anymore. Please let me go practice."
Manning received at least one favorable review.
"It was kind of fun to hear him on the headset," Webb said. "He did a good job."
*Pro Football hall of Famer Michael Strahan watched practice – wearing a Giants cap – and then spoke to the team at McAdoo's request.
"Strahan did a nice job," McAdoo said. "He talked about the love of the game; he talked about the pride in the Giants organization; about how his team, the team that he was on, is connected to the team that we have here today; what a special place this is; and don't have any regrets and make sure you get everything you can out of camp and have no regrets moving forward."
Strahan spent his entire 15-year career (1993-2007) with the Giants. He retired after they beat New England in Super Bowl XLII. Strahan holds the NFL single-season record with 22.5 sacks in 2001, and the Giants' career record with 141.5. His 216 regular-season games are a franchise record. Strahan was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2014.
Manning was Strahan's teammate for four seasons and is impressed at how the Hall of Famer can inspire today's players.
"He can capture the audience," Manning said. "He's a great motivator; always was when he was here and he got the opportunity to talk in front of the group. He's always had the right thing to say. Today, same deal. He had a great message for us. Extra work, working hard, expecting to win and wanting to put in the extra work to make it happen.
"Once a Giant always a Giant. No one better than Michael Strahan representing that."