EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For millions of people, summers mean visits to the beach, camping trips and barbeques. But for John Mara, it’s about his family’s lifelong affiliation with, and affection for, football.
“I think this is my 62nd training camp,” Mara said today and he opened his annual camp news conference roughly three hours before the Giants’ first practice.
As always, Mara adroitly answered questions about numerous subjects, even those he’d prefer to dismiss. The start of camp is a time of renewal for all teams, but Mara conceded he hasn’t completely let go of the Giants’ dismal 2017 season.
“I haven’t gotten over last season quite yet,” he said. “I have to be honest about it, I did not see it coming. I felt very good this time last year. I think most of you (reporters) predicted that we were going to have a great season, some of you even predicted we’d go to the Super Bowl. I wasn’t quite buying into that, but I certainly did not see 3-13 coming. I don’t know that you ever fully get over that, but I think getting back into camp and seeing the players that we have on that field and getting ready to play games this year, I feel good about where are. But I’m not going to forget about last season any time soon.”
Moments earlier, Mara said, “I am excited to get started and to start playing games, because last season was a nightmare for us, and we feel good about where we are right now. Everybody is undefeated right now. But I feel good about what we did in the offseason, and I like the people that we have here, so it’s time to get going.”
Like all teams, the Giants have numerous questions to answer and issues to resolve before the regular season begins on Sept. 9. But those peppering Mara with questions were most concerned with one: when is Odell Beckham, Jr. going to get a new contract?
“I anticipate that we’ll be speaking with his agent sooner rather than later,” Mara said. “I’m not going to give you an exact timetable on that, nor are we going to give daily or weekly updates on that. But I think those will start pretty soon and hopefully we will be able to come to an agreement.
“I think this was the timing that we always had in mind, but you know, I think Odell personally is moving in the right direction. I think he has come in here with a good attitude, showed up yesterday with a smile on his face and worked hard, and I think he’s ready to go. I think he’s ready to have a great season and we’re ready for him to have a great season.”
Mara discussed several other topics:
*On the ongoing negotiations between the NFL and the players association about the national anthem:
“There will be meetings fairly soon, and there have been discussions about the anthem policy,” Mara said. “Hopefully, we will be able to come to some sort of resolution that everyone can buy into.
“My intention all along has been to sit with our veteran players when they came back to training camp and just discuss the issue. Now that the policy has been put on hold, depending on these discussions with the NFLPA, I think we’re going to let those play out before I sit down and talk about that with our players.”
*On general manager Dave Gettleman, who has been underdoing treatment for lymphoma, which was diagnosed in the spring:
“Dave is doing great,” Mara said. “It was reported yesterday, I think, that he’s in remission, and he was in the office yesterday, actually. I think he will be in later this afternoon, but he’s doing well. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a more upbeat person in my life, particularly going through what he’s going through. But he’s very optimistic about his recovery and about his ability to work this year, and you know, we’re very excited about that. It’s the best news we’ve had in a long time.”
*On quarterback Eli Manning, who is entering his 15th season:
“I think he’s still got a lot of really good football left in him,” Mara said. “I know as you mentioned, both Dave and Pat Shurmur feel that way, too. That was something they emphasized to me when we interviewed them, and I think we have a little better supporting cast around him this year. If we could just stay healthy, I think you’ll see some very good football from number 10.”
*On if he remembers a Giants rookie starting his first camp with as much hype as that surrounding running back Saquon Barkley, the second overall selection in the NFL Draft:
“Possibly 1981, Lawrence Taylor when he came to camp, but maybe not quite this much,” Mara said. “I mean, his jersey is already the number-one selling jersey, he’s gotten a lot of attention. But again, I think in speaking to him and watching how he conducts himself, I think he is able to handle that, so I feel good about that. But still, you know I’ve used this line a million times before – let’s not get him ready for Canton just yet, let’s let him play some games first.”