The Giants took the field at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Wednesday for the first practice of training camp.
General manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll met with the media prior to the start of practice. Following the training session, quarterback Daniel Jones, left tackle Andrew Thomas and safety Xavier McKinney spoke with reporters.
Here is what we heard Wednesday:
Giants 'thrilled' to have Saquon back
The Giants' big week began on Tuesday when running back Saquon Barkley signed the franchise tag and returned to the team.
Schoen and Daboll did not hide their excitement about having one of the team's leaders present for the start of training camp.
"I know obviously Saquon, we engaged in negotiations over a nine-and-a-half-month period," Schoen told the media. "At the end of the day, we couldn't come to an agreement on a longer-term deal, but we circled back on Monday and fortunately were able to come to an agreement with altering the franchise tag a little bit to get him to camp. We're ecstatic, fired up that Saquon's going to be here for the start of camp. So, excited about that."
"Saquon and I have a really good relationship," Daboll added. "We have communicated a lot and he's here, ready to go and excited to be here. And I'm excited that he's here."
That enthusiasm over Barkley's return carried over to the locker room, as well.
"We're obviously thrilled to have him back," Jones said about the running back. "It was a tough situation for him, and I'm glad that we got it worked out. He's an incredible leader on this team. He's an incredible player and means so much to this group. So yeah, it's huge to get him back."
View photos from the first practice of training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Thomas 'excited to be here for a while'
The good news continued early Wednesday morning, as it was announced that the Giants signed left tackle Andrew Thomas to a contract extension.
"It's a blessing," Thomas told reporters. "(It's) something that I worked hard for and something that I'm going to continue to work hard for to live up to that. It's a blessing for my family (and) my kids that I don't even have yet, but I'm excited for it and excited to be here for a while."
Thomas, coming off a breakout season in which he was selected second-team All-Pro, is now locked in with the Giants for the foreseeable future.
"I'm extremely happy for him and happy for myself also," Jones said about his left tackle. "He's a tremendous player. He's a tremendous player. He goes about it the right way. He works his tail off. He's prepared, super smart, knows exactly what to do and then brings other guys along with him. So, he's a huge part of this offense, huge part of this team and yeah, I'm extremely excited for him."
The standout tackle also expressed his confidence in the team's core of players and staff.
"We have a good core group of guys, especially the younger guys," said Thomas. "I love the staff. This is the most – I said it last year in a few interviews (that) this is the most fun that I've had playing football in a long time so I'm excited to be a part of this organization and hopefully we can do some special things."
Daboll: 'Everyone has to buy into the program'
The Giants surprised a lot of people around the league with their success last season, the first under Brian Daboll. The team won nine games in the regular season before adding another in their Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
The roster went through some changes this offseason, with numerous additions and departures on both sides of the ball. However, one big factor that primarily remained the same was the coaching staff, as both offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale returned after garnering some head coaching interest.
Now heading into Year 2 in the program, Daboll said his message to the team was pretty basic.
"I think you lay out clear standards, clear expectations of what you expect in the meeting rooms, in the building, on the practice field and everybody has to has to buy into the program, which we have a lot of good people in our building," the head coach said. "Not just players, but support staff, people on the business side, trainers, equipment, they're all involved in that meeting. A lot of it is logistics. Today was really go out there and compete. There's going to be a lot of mistakes that'll be made. We're going to try to put you in difficult situations; move on to the next play as quick as you can. Support your teammates. Go out there and play as hard and smart as you can. Again, today is kind of page one of the of the 2023 season. A long way to go, let's just take it day by day and get better each day.
Jones echoed Daboll's sentiment.
"We've got a number of players who have now been here for a few years and understand what it means to be a New York Giant, and then what it means to play for Coach Daboll and his system and what he wants kind of the culture and the feel in the locker room to be," the quarterback added. "We've got a great group of leaders, great group of young guys who know what that is, and who embody that and really take to that every day."
Waller 'makes it a tough cover every time'
Perhaps the biggest addition made by the Giants this offseason, both literally and figuratively, was tight end Darren Waller.
It didn't take long for the 6-foot-6, 245-pound tight end to make a splash. Jones connected with Waller for a touchdown during 7-on-7 drills Wednesday, as the 30-year-old made an impressive catch in traffic.
Waller's strong pass-catching ability is no surprise to safety Xavier McKinney, who had to line up in coverage against the tight end during the team's offseason program.
"6-6, 4.4, great hands, can run routes like a regular wideout, can run all the routes," the safety said about Waller. "Pretty much can do everything. Being as big as he is, you don't see guys that big that can move like that. So, it makes him real special. It makes him a tough cover every time.
"When I am on him, it puts me on high alert. I have to be because I know that every play, he can get the ball. It just makes me compete and go a lot harder, it makes me a lot better. Definitely love having him on this team because I know how he's going to help us, and I know how he's going to help me improve as a player."
Battle for starting safety spot will be 'hell of a competition'
The Giants have battles for starting spots at several different positions this summer on both sides of the ball. One of which is the starting safety spot next to McKinney, the position that was held by Julian Love last year.
With Love now in Seattle, the defense has several players battling for the vacant spot, including Jason Pinnock, Bobby McCain, Dane Belton among others. McKinney believes this training camp battle will ultimately make the secondary better as a unit.
"It's going to be a hell of a competition," said McKinney. "Overall, we are all competing at the end of the day. All of those guys are super competitive and super talented. All of them have got unique skillsets. It's just going to make all of us better at the end of the day and that's going to make our room better ultimately. I'm glad that we are all in the same room because I think we've got a hell of a safety room."
While the defense has some new faces at every level, McKinney is confident in the unit as a whole under Martindale.
"It's great to have Wink back," the 24-year-old said. "A lot of the guys that were here last year are very familiar with the system. We know what he wants to do, where he wants to call things and we know how he wants it to look. It's fun being in that second year with him and just being comfortable and being able to go out there and play fast. I think we have all felt that throughout the defense and everybody is excited to build off what we have."