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Linemen rejoice as pads come on at Training Camp


*Giants players wore shoulder pads for the first time at 2017Training Camp Tuesday: *

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– One of the unmistakable sounds of football, the slap of shoulder pads, made its 2017 debut in the Giants' training camp today, and it was music to the ears of the offensive and defensive linemen.

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"For interior linemen, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, this is a day we all look forward to," right guard John Jerry said. "Putting the pads on, that's when we really can come off and get ready to play the game."

"For our position in particular, we do not get the real end of it until we get into pads," defensive end Olivier Vernon said. "It's good for both sides. I know both sides have been itching to get back as far as the physicality of it between the offensive and defensive lines, so I know guys were excited today. It would be better if we could tackle live. Nah, I'm just playing. But it's good."

Players aren't permitted to wear pads during the spring drills and very early in camp. The Giants had three practices without pads before a day off yesterday. The linemen hadn't worn their pads in anger since the NFC Wild Card Game loss to Green Bay on Jan. 8, almost seven months ago. Ben McAdoo and his assistants have said repeatedly it's impossible to evaluate the progress of the linemen until they put on pads.

Today, that process took a serious turn.

"I think the first three days without pads on helped us," McAdoo said. "Going out and repping the drills and talking about the type of tempo that we want out on the field. And I think both sides responded."

McAdoo led off with a half-line running drill in which he looks for physical play from both the linemen and backs. He is laying a foundation as he strives to improve the Giants' rushing attack, which averaged just 88.3 yards a game and 3.5 yards a carry last season.

"That's a big part of the game today," he said. "You have to make sure you maximize your reps in pads, in the time with pads. We're going to be smart about how we load the practices, how much time we're on the field, and what we ask players to do. But at the same point in time, when we're out there, we need to squeeze all the juice out of the orange and make sure we get it to look the way we want it to look, and that's players and coaches.

"We got about 20 reps at (the half-line drill). Productive drill – we went down a couple of times, but for the most part we stayed on our feet. We have to learn to fit our pads in, get our leverage and accelerate our knees on contact. But it was a good start."

McAdoo said the reaction he seeks from the running backs is not simply hitting the hole.

"I want them to press the heels of the offensive line to set up the blocks," he said. "So we can get the fits that we're looking for, so that we can see – it's a half-line drill, we're trying to avoid rollups on the backside for player safety. We want to make sure that we set the blocks, so that we have a chance to see the offense and defense engage, see who can sustain and strain through the block, and see who can destroy the block, from a defensive perspective."

All coaches, of course, want a physical football team. Now that the pads are on, McAdoo and his staff, as well as the players, will get an idea where they stand in that vital part of the game.

"Obviously, in the run game, it is more realistic," center Weston Richburg said. "That is how you play football, so it was good for us to get the pads on. We were able to go through technique and throw our shoulders into things, so it was better for us. That's how we play. That's what we like to do."

"That's everything," defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. "That's why we do what we do. The physical portion of it, that's all us. The offseason is more for the skill guys, but when you get to put the pads on, man, that's why we play the game."

*The run drills also included the tight ends lining up at fullback. How did that go?

"It wasn't an adventure, if that's what you were asking," McAdoo said. "They did a nice job. We ask a lot of our tight ends. They can handle responsibilities off the line, in line, in the slot, out as the number one receiver, in the backfield if need be. We'll see how they respond as we get going here with pads on."

*The linemen weren't alone in welcoming back that essential football equipment.

"It was kind of hot, but other than that, with the pads on, it's good," safety Landon Collins said. "It's fantastic to get the pads on and tackle a few people. I mean, not tackle, but wrap and release as we call it, but it felt fantastic. Now, we get into the nitty-gritty.

"You have to get used to (the pads) first, but I would say, after today, I think it's going to be different. It's going to be ramped up, and we'll see a different practice tomorrow."

Collins, of course, cannot hit his offensive teammates with any force. But he's not shy about reminding the receivers that some of the passes they catch would fall to the ground if he could.

"I tell them that all the time," he said. "Especially our receivers, you can't tackle them, you can't touch them. You try to keep them up, you try to keep them safe, each and every player. When they run crossing routes and I'm coming downhill on them… I tell them whatever quarterback that's throwing the ball to them, 'He put you in a bad situation right there.'"

Collins said he has an understanding with Odell Beckham, Jr. – no contact allowed.

"Odell just looks at me, gives me a head nod, and I give him a head nod back," Collins said.

*Running back Shane Vereen and defensive end Devin Taylor did not practice because of lower body soreness…Wide receiver/return specialist Dwayne Harris left practice early with a shoulder injury.

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