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Mid-Stream Adjustments


Indeed, they were not supposed to practice today because they were scheduled to play their annual preseason game against the Jets at 7 p.m. in MetLife Stadium. But concerns about the storm first moved the starting time up five hours, to 2 p.m., and then back 48 hours from the original kickoff time, to 7 p.m. on Monday.

For the first time in memory, the Giants will not gather the day before a game, nor will they stay in a hotel tomorrow night.

And Tom Coughlin, whose laser-like focus on football at this time of year is legendary, has Irene at the forefront of his consciousness.

"First and foremost, our thoughts are for the safety and well-being of everybody who has been and will be impacted by the hurricane system," Coughlin said today. "We pray that all those people have taken the necessary precautions and that the aftermath is something that can be managed effectively. I think those officials responsible for public safety have done a good job of educating the public and helping people prepare."

The Giants were in a team meeting last night when they learned of the latest postponement. Coughlin scheduled a practice for early today.

"We were on a short week last week (because their victory over Chicago was played on Monday), so the extra day of preparation was beneficial," Coughlin said. "The players came in here this morning and we had good meetings and a good practice and we were able to get them on their way by 1:30. We have told everybody to stay home tomorrow and stay safe, and we will gather again for our pregame meal and meetings early on Monday afternoon."

Quarterback Eli Manning said the players have adapted easily to the changing schedules.

"It's really not that bad," Manning said. "We had a walk-thru yesterday and found out last night that the game had been postponed. I thought the guys adjusted. We came in today and I thought we really had a crisp, sharp practice. Guys were flying around, moving around. I got to see a few more Jets' looks, since we had a short week in the first place. I think guys are now set on going home, resting up today and tomorrow.

"The weirdest thing will be tomorrow night, not being in the hotel, but being at home or wherever and then showing up for meetings Monday afternoon and then playing the game that night. That will be a different routine that we haven't had. But I think everyone has adjusted well. Obviously, we've been through this a little bit before, last year with the Minnesota game. So I think it's going pretty smoothly."

The schedule will continue to present challenges after the Jets game. The Giants' preseason finale will be played Thursday night in New England. So less than 72 hours after they walk off the field at MetLife Stadium, they will be kicking off in Gillette Stadium.

"The coming week is going to be challenging, no question about it," Coughlin said. "But we will adjust and adapt and make the best out of it."

Other than light workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling Wednesday evening, the Giants will have no practice time between their games against the Jets and Patriots.

"That's why this game is so important," Manning said. "I thought getting in another practice and running around today was helpful. This game is going to be very important. We're going to get some looks and see how we stand against a 3-4 team, a team that does some exotic blitzes and a top-quality team. We have to make sure everybody is on the same page and communicating and everybody is doing their responsibility. Hopefully, we'll go out there and play well.

"After that, we'll see what the schedule is. Usually, in the last preseason game you don't play much, anyway. We'll adjust next week. After the Jets game, we'll get our focus on New England."

Playing two games in four days can tax the players physically, but Coughlin said he can't be too concerned about what happens on Thursday while his team is playing Monday. But the Patriots game may bring some unexpected player deployment.

"We can only play one game at a time," Coughlin said. "We are going to play the starters the first half on Monday night, and then we will take a look at how we will handle personnel on Thursday. That would be the game we would deviate from how we've done things in the past, simply because you are talking about only two days between games and no real practice time."

Further complicating matters is the NFL's first mandatory roster reduction on Tuesday. All teams must reduce their rosters from 90 to 80 players by 4 p.m., or about 18 hours after the Giants-Jets game will end.

Will that make the decision-making process more difficult for the Giants?

"Listen, there is nothing we can do about the current set of circumstances," Coughlin said. "We have to adjust and adapt. We have been evaluating our roster since the start of training camp. All we can do is take what we have had in terms of the totality of the preseason and make our decisions based on that. There really has been no precedent for this entire preseason."

Manning grew up in New Orleans and was a star at Ole Miss, but he can't recall ever having a game disrupted by a hurricane.

"We had some high school practices that were affected by hurricanes," Manning said. "During the summers and in August, we always just left early. That was my dad's approach, to say, 'If we can get out of town, we'll leave a few days before and miss all the traffic and chaos. And if it changes direction and it doesn't hit us, that's a blessing and we'll come home and everything will be fine.'"

New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are accustomed to hurricanes. Manning admits he didn't think he'd see one when he moved to metropolitan area.

"You never quite expect it," he said. "Hopefully, it will weaken by the time it gets here and everyone will get out healthy and without too much damage done to the area. You never know what's going to be thrown at you. It's good they were able to detect it early and give people warning to get out of the way."

That's essentially what Coughlin did with his players. He released them early enough that they had time to find a safe haven from the storm.

"That's why he gave us the day off (tomorrow)," Manning said. "He said it's supposed to hit tomorrow morning and it's a big storm, a wide, long hurricane, so it's going to last the majority of the day with high winds and heavy rain. So stay in the house and have enough food and water so you don't have to leave and let this thing full clear before we have to go out and about."

Just a few days ago, the Giants thought they would be playing Saturday night. Their itinerary has since changed several times. But they're getting good at making such adjustments. Less than nine months ago, they left New Jersey to face the Vikings in Minnesota, only to stop in Kansas City and play in Detroit.

"We're getting good at mid-stream adjustments," Coughlin said. "I don't know if that is something you necessarily want to perfect, but I think we're close."

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