EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants got to play some real football today.
For the first time this training camp, the Giants practiced in full pads, thereby giving the offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers an opportunity actually hit somebody, an act last performed when they played a game last season. It wasn't full speed or full power – nobody is looking to crush a teammate - but it was still fun.
"This is very exciting for everybody – it's been so long," said Ereck Flowers, who has moved from left to right tackle. "It's one of those weird excitements, anxiety-type moments. It was fun."
"Today was a great day," inside linebacker B.J. Goodson said. "You get back in the pads, get used to the pads. To get to hit today felt great. It's painful for me to sit out that long without contact. Trying to simulate it doesn't do it. Getting back to it was a great thing."
During the organized team activities and minicamps in the spring, players are prohibited from wearing pads. Those are largely exercises for the skill players. The linemen can make progress mentally and work on technique, but they can't really play full-speed or be judged properly until the banging starts.
"Certainly with the shoulder pads and the pants on, we can start to get some of the final pieces of our evaluation – especially for the guys up front – so we're going to try to find the guys that can play football," coach Pat Shurmur said prior to practice. "This is where it's going to start to look the most like what we do on Sundays aside from tackling and taking guys to the ground. Our guys are excited about it, they're ready to go, and I look forward to a good afternoon.
"We're not going to tackle to the ground today. So as the runner goes through, they're going to thud and simulate a tackle and then continue to let the runner run and strip the ball out and all the things you continue to do, but we're just not going to tackle to the ground."
The first real contact was in the half-line drills early in the practice: a center, guard and tackle on one side going up against a defensive tackle, end or outside linebacker in a run drill.
"I always look forward to delivering the first hit," second-year defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said. "Sometimes you might have butterflies in your system. We finally got those pads on in the trenches, which makes it real. You go out there and get back at it and compete a little bit."
"This is definitely what it's all about," guard John Jerry said. "It's that time of year, man whipping man. As offensive and defensive linemen, we're licking our chops for the first day in pads, to get a chance to hit somebody, set a tone, and separate the men from the boys."
Even players absorbing the blows were happy to put pads on.
"It was a pretty good day, productive," running back Wayne Gallman said. "I think everybody had the feeling they wanted to get the pads on. The first hit is going to come, and today we got it out of the way. The adrenalin was high today. But we had no head-on collisions. Everybody is trying to take care of each other. You have to love the physical aspect of the game, or you wouldn't be here."
For rookie linemen like defensive tackle B.J. Hill, today was their first opportunity really gauge their progress since they reported in May.
"It was fun going out there to compete with the other defensive linemen against the offensive linemen," Hill said. "It was a good time out there. I love putting on the pads and hitting people. It's way better with pads on."
That was certainly the post-practice consensus in the Giants locker room.
*Davis Webb continues to take snaps as the second-team quarterback, but Shurmur said the QB order behind Eli Manning is evolving. Rookie Kyle Lauletta and veteran Alex Tanney are also getting reps.
"In my mind, we have Eli, and we haven't really structured the depth chart beyond that," Shurmur said. "I think it's important that the guys come out here and use the reps that they get to get better. That's probably a question that's better for later in camp. We want to fight as coaches to be instant evaluators. I mentioned it yesterday, we game plan and then we develop players. So, we're in the phase right now where we are trying to develop players."
*Rookie tight end Garrett Dickerson (hamstring) did not practice.