Ahmad Bradshaw was boarding his flight to New Jersey yesterday when, for perhaps the 1000th time this offseason, someone recognized him, turned around and pantomimed his turnaround, sit-down, game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI.
"I was getting on an airplane and one of the guys who worked with the airline just fell back and started acting like he was scoring a touchdown," Bradshaw said today. "It happens every day. That is how they know me these days. I just get more recognized now after the touchdown. Everybody I see – they are always talking about the touchdown. It was an enjoyable moment."
The Giants have enjoyed many such moments in the 10 weeks since they defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Whether they're at home with their families, out with their friends or approached by strangers eager to revel in the franchise's fourth Super Bowl triumph, the Giants have learned that winning the title is an experience savored by many.
"Everyone says something," safety Antrel Rolle said. "When I went down to Costa Rica, a dude had 'Giants win the Super Bowl' on his screensaver. It's a remarkable feeling. You hear about things like that as far as being a part of this Giants organization, but you never understand it until you experience it. For me to experience it firsthand, it's been nothing less than phenomenal."
Many of the players shared their experiences today when they convened for the beginning of the team's voluntary offseason conditioning program. And while they can still celebrate their remarkable achievement, today the Giants turned the corner and began focusing on succeeding again in 2012.
"I think it's always exciting to get back – it's like the first day of school after the summer," Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning said. "You're excited to see all your teammates and coaches and try to figure out how we're going to get better and what we're going to improve on. You see some of the new faces and get them caught up on what we need to do. It's always exciting to get back here, knowing we're getting back to work."
"I look at today as the unofficial start of the new season," guard Kevin Boothe said. "It is good to see everybody, but we also realize that we are here to begin preparation for next season. The expectations are always high, so you hope to continue to improve off of how we ended last season and hopefully take it into this offseason and into the new season."
Several players have visited the Timex Performance Center to rehab injuries, including some who had surgeries. But this is the first time a large segment of the team has been together since two days after the Super Bowl, when the championship was celebrated at a ticker tape parade in lower Manhattan and a rally in MetLife Stadium. The players greeted each other with handshakes, hugs and backslaps.
"I'm very excited to get back here," Rolle said. "It's been a very, very short offseason. But at the same time, I've never been so excited to get in and finish what we started. I'll still have more time to enjoy myself and relax. But right now it's just about business. It's about getting that mindset, getting back around my peers. I missed the hell out of these ugly guys in this locker room. I'm ready to get back to work."
"It's good to see everyone," guard Chris Snee said. "You go from being with them every day and then you take two months off – which is needed. You're excited to come in, catch up with the guys and start working again."
The composition of the locker room has changed since Super Bowl XLVI. Two key offensive players, wide receiver Mario Manningham and running back Brandon Jacobs, have signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Cornerback Aaron Ross is with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Devin Thomas, who made two critical fumble recoveries in the NFC Championship Game victory in San Francisco, is a Chicago Bear. Tackle Kareem McKenzie is a free agent.
"You have some guys that have been here for a long time that aren't here anymore – Brandon, Kareem and Mario, some guys that have played well for us and helped us win a couple of championships," Manning said. "That's always a part of football – that's probably the worst part about it, losing friends and teammates. But we'll have some new guys in and we still have a lot of key players that helped us win this past championship. We'll make changes and adjust things and make sure we're getting better."
Bradshaw and Jacobs have been as close as brothers since they first became teammates in 2007.
"Not to have him in that locker and for him not to be in here talking or yelling at me, it is different," Bradshaw said. "Of course, we are going to stay friends and he is going to be there for me and I'm going to be there for him.
"With B.J. gone I know that I have to fill his shoes in the leadership part and just speak my words when they have to be spoken. And like I said, just be a leader and just use my talents and my heart to show this team that I care."
The Giants have also added players, including tight end Martellus Bennett, linebacker Keith Rivers and several defensive backs, the latest being former Patriot Antwaun Molden.
"It's good to get to see everybody," said Bennett, the former Dallas Cowboy. "It is kind of like when you were a kid and switched schools when your parents moved and you have to meet new students, new teachers. We moved a lot as a kid so it is pretty easy for me to make friends. Everybody seems cool; everybody is nice. We know each other – kind of, sort of just by playing against each other. It is good to be around the guys."
Those guys, old and new, are already thinking about what it will take to succeed in 2012. And today they took the first steps toward realizing those goals.
"(We) know what it takes to make that run that we did last year and for the few that remain from (Super Bowl XLII) five years ago," Snee said. "I would hope that they're hungry. The job of the leadership on this team is to make sure everyone's on board. We also know the challenge is going to be very difficult defending. Everyone is going to give you their best shot."
"It was great seeing (Victor) Cruz, Eli, seeing those guys' faces," Rolle said. "You still see the determination in their eyes. We're not going to be complacent. Super Bowl XLVI – we live it, we enjoy it, we keep it in our hearts. But we're looking to move on to bigger and better things this year."
*Although he's been in demand, Manning said he has spent most of his time since the Super Bowl relaxing.
"It's been a good offseason," he said. "It's one that you want, because there's only one team that's really happy after the season ends, so it's been a good two months. But it's exciting to get back here and get among your teammates and make sure we get back to work.
"I wanted to get away after the game and get my rest and get my recovery and spend some time with my family. I was able to do that. I've had to do a few things here and there. But I've really had a relaxing time. I wanted to make sure I got my rest in February and March, because I knew when I got back here in April it would be getting back to work and lot of time spent here."
Manning never really stops working out, but he took caution not to tax his throwing arm.
"Because the season went longer I wanted to give the body full time to recover and give the arm full time to recover," Manning said. "(I) went and tossed it around today a little bit. I've been tossing it a little bit, but haven't been throwing too much, because I wanted to make sure the arm got plenty of rest."