After receiving their helmets and jersey numbers the day before, the 2021 rookie class took the field Friday afternoon for the first time as members of the New York Football Giants.
With COVID protocols in place, the rookie minicamp roster is comprised of approximately 22 players ranging from draft picks to undrafted free agents and tryouts – a much smaller number than usual. The on-field work emphasizes individual drills, an opportunity last year's class missed due to the pandemic.
Coach Joe Judge and players spoke to the media following the first practice. Here is what you need to know:
It's about orientation, not competition.
Judge has been part of rookie minicamps where it is run as a full competition, but his approach as head coach is all about acclimation. The goal of his staff is to get the rookies up to speed and ready for when they jump in with the veterans.
"I think the biggest thing with these rookies, with any class of rookie, it's all brand new to them," he said. "It's their first day in the National Football League, first time on the grass and first time in our systems and schemes. So really this is an orientation weekend. This isn't a competition weekend. This isn't a situation where we are cutting down the team this weekend. This is just get the guys out there moving on the grass, take a look at them and get a better idea where they are physically. These are guys that have not been with a team now for at least five months."
Check out photos of the 2021 rookie class taking the field for the first time at minicamp.
First-round pick Kadarius Toney is willing to take hard coaching.
Friday was the first look at first-round pick Kadarius Toney, the wide receiver whom the Giants selected 20th overall after trading back for future selections. It was also his first taste of a Judge-run practice.
"They coach pretty hard," the former Florida Gator said. "I mean, any player that's willing to do what it takes to win, they are going to respect whatever coach they have available."
Toney added: "I was pretty anxious to get out there, but at the end of the day I have to take the situation for what it is. … As far as nerve-wise, I was eager to really just go out there and show the coaches what I can do and they came and took a chance. The least I can do is show them my ability and what I can actually bring to the organization."
Kelvin Benjamin is in for a tryout.
Benjamin, a 2014 first-round draft choice by general manager Dave Gettleman when he was in the same role with the Panthers, is one of the players invited on a tryout basis. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder has caught 20 touchdowns in 61 career games (52 starts) but has not played since 2018. He was traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2017, released, and then signed by the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Everyone is here for a purpose," Judge said. "All of the guys were brought in on a trial basis. They were the guys available for us to work check within our system a little bit and see if there's a potential to add them for a role for our team.
"In terms of Benjamin working different position today, we're going to work different guys at a variety of things right now. He's a big guy. He's always been a big receiver. He'll work receiver. He's working a little bit flex tight end as well. I wouldn't really pin him down to any one position at this point. We're going to use the weekend to move him around to different spots and see how it works out."
Rookies received jersey numbers.
The Giants announced new numbers for the six draft picks and three undrafted rookies.
- WR Kadarius Toney: 89
- LB Azeez Ojulari: 51
- CB Aaron Robinson: 33
- LB Elerson Smith: 58
- RB Gary Brightwell: 37
- CB Rodarius Williams: 25
- C Brett Heggie: 61
- G Jake Burton: 70
- DE Raymond Johnson III: 91
Note: Numbers are always subject to change.
Half of draft class signed contracts.
As rookies reported on Thursday, the Giants announced they had signed half of their six-player 2021 draft class. The list includes the team's second-round selection, outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari of Georgia, and the two sixth-round choices, running back Gary Brightwell of Arizona and cornerback Rodarius Williams of Oklahoma State.
Three undrafted rookies began their quest for a roster spot.
The Giants added three rookie free agents to the incoming class: offensive linemen Brett Heggie of Florida and Jake Burton of Baylor and defensive end Raymond Johnson III of Georgia Southern.
Heggie, 6-4 and 310 pounds, played in 41 games with 31 starts – 15 at left guard, 12 at center and four at right guard. He started each of his final 24 games, including all 12 last season at center.
Burton, 6-6 and 312 pounds, played at Baylor as a graduate transfer last season and started eight games at right guard. He previously spent four years at UCLA, where he played in 29 games, including starts at right tackle in 23 of 24 games in 2018-19.
Johnson, 6-3 and 270 pounds, played in 50 games with 47 starts at Georgia Southern and started all 38 games the previous three seasons. He was credited with 150 tackles, including 36.0 for loss and 16.5 sacks. As a senior in 2020, he had career-high totals of 14.5 tackles for loss (second in the Sun Belt Conference) and 5.0 sacks among his 38 tackles.
Judge was asked specifically about the two offensive linemen after their first practice.
"Well, I think these guys had good tape in college," Judge said. "They are both intelligent players. They have been working very hard. In terms of where they are right now compared to where we plan on them being through the duration of the season, they are a far way away but they are both working very regard right now giving themselves a chance to catch up. I like the way they worked on the field. [Offensive line coach Rob Sale, assistant offensive line coach Ben Wilkerson, and consultant Pat Flaherty] had those guys going pretty good. It's tough being in a camp where you are only two linemen for the entire duration of a day, but those guys handled it well today."