"We've missed some time, and we've got to get everybody back together and we have a lot of – the way the new schedule is with the walkthroughs and only one practice a day, we're going to have to get a lot of stuff done in the meeting rooms, in the walkthroughs," Manning, the Giants' eighth-year quarterback, said in his first comments since the NFL labor dispute ended. "Our practices have to be crisp. We've got to get a lot of young guys up to speed with what's going on. Luckily, we do have some veteran guys in key positions, but it's still first- and second-year guys who are going to need to step up in the key roles. They'll have to learn quickly and have a big training camp. So yeah, there's still a lot of work to be done, but we have a veteran group of players who should be ready to go once we start practice on Saturday."
Like all NFL teams, the Giants are in a hurry-up mode. They are in the midst of a frenzied signing period that includes acquiring both veterans and rookies and trimming other players from the roster. Many players have been to the Timex Performance Center in the last two days. Training camp begins Friday, with the first practice on Saturday. The preseason schedule begins Aug. 13 at Carolina and the regular season on Sept. 11 at Washington.
"This is what it's going to have to be considering the situation that we're all in given that the lockout just ended," Tuck said. "And the time frame isn't what we are used to. It's going to be guys knowing the system, guys knowing the defense, offense, special teams and making sure that we kind of latch on to some of the new guys and hopefully speed up their progress to getting in and being a factor for their football team.
"That's not only us. That's every team. Every team is going to have new guys. Every team is going to have guys that necessarily doesn't know the style of coaching, the system they're playing and I think the team that does that the best will have – you'll see those teams jump out early in the season and have pretty good success."
The Giants could be one of those teams, because they have virtually their entire coaching staff back (only assistant special teams coach Larry Izzo is new), plus key veterans like Manning and Tuck. The discipline and routine demanded by Tom Coughlin should help the Giants quickly prepare for the season.
"I think even guys that haven't been with Coach Coughlin, they understand what to expect from him," Tuck said. "So that will help us in the short term and hopefully in the long term. So far the guys that we've brought in, even the free agent guys. (I) had an opportunity to talk to some of them – they're kind of levelheaded guys that they know they're going to come in here and work. And they've got a great opportunity. So I'm looking forward to working with them."
Manning is eager to begin working with his receivers, not just young veterans like Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, but also untested players like Victor Cruz, who was so productive in preseason games last year. Because offseason programs were canceled this year, those youngsters missed valuable opportunities to develop in meetings and on the field.
"He missed a lot and didn't really play last year," Manning said of Cruz. "It could have been a great offseason for him this year to work and kind of have a better feel where he's going to work – a slot guy, outside, work him, rep him, get him comfortable with this offense where he comes into training camp and he's ready. We've still got to do some experiments and see what's comfortable. Who's going to be our slot guy, who's going to be playing where – so we've got a lot of things to kind of juggle around right now and figure out what's our best combination, what receivers are going to be the best fit to play when we start the season."
A lot of questions must be answered on the practice field before the Giants wear their game uniforms for the first time. But everyone is eager to begin the process.
"The thing I know is guys are hungry to get back on the football field," Tuck said. "We had a disappointing end to last year. That has definitely set in guys' minds for the last six months. So I think those two factors alone will make guys very eager and very excited to be on the football field. With that excitement, getting back together and playing the sport we love, I look forward to us having a great year.
"I'm looking forward to seeing exactly where we are and hopefully getting back to where we should be – in the playoffs every year."