EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No one wants tension and acrimony at the beginning of a hoped-for long-term relationship, so the Giants and Jets were professional and civil toward each other throughout their joint practice today at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Coaches Brian Daboll and Robert Saleh each said they hope to make this get-together an annual affair, so they instructed their players to avoid fighting and instead focus on working well and improving. The teams avoided the brawls that have plagued numerous joint workouts this summer – and the previous Giants/Jets practice in Albany N.Y. 17 years ago, when tight end Jeremy Shockey was in the middle of a multi-player fight on the second play of the day.
"All we're trying to do is get better," said Daboll, who spoke to his players about avoiding hostile extracurricular activity. "Improve our fundamentals. Compete against another team that has different skillsets, different scheme. We're not looking to go out there and fight.
"We'd like to do this for a while without anything happening like that again. I've been part of these, too. I understand how it goes. But we're certainly going to try to do what we can do to just have a good, competitive practice."
That's exactly what they had. While the workout was fast-paced and competitive, no punches were thrown and no players on opposite sides had to be separated. The vibe was one of mutual respect and geniality.
"I think that says a lot about the head coaches," running back Matt Breida said. "They stressed to us before practice, 'There isn't going to be any fighting. We're trying to get work done.' And we understand where they're coming from. Because at the end of the day, we're trying to get better as a team. And if we go out there and all we do is fight, we're not going to get anything accomplished. And like coach said, we're trying to do it every year - have a joint practice. So, we don't want to have those taken away from us. It helps guys get better."
The cooperation began when the teams came together in a large huddle prior to practice. When it's just the Giants, they often yell, "Giants" or "win." But today was different.
"Somebody said, 'How about we just say New York on three,'" cornerback Adoree' Jackson said. "So, that was pretty funny. I'm like, 'Okay, cool.' But I just felt like they were all good, genuine guys. And then their head coach, obviously the same as ours, we respect the things that he wanted us to do. And they did the same. And as players, he told us just, 'Treat it like you do your own players,' and that's how we went out there and treated our practice. Although it's competition, you just want to make sure everybody stays safe."
None of that is meant to suggest the practice was a 90-minute kumbaya.
"I thought it was probably, overall, a little bit more intense," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "I think that's natural when you go against another team. With that being said, I thought guys did a good job practicing the right way and taking care of one another for the most part. I thought that was good. I think going against another team is good because the tempo does pick up a little bit and you're going against guys you haven't seen and against looks you haven't seen as much."
View photos from the joint practice between the Giants and Jets at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
The teams meet in the final preseason game in MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. For many players, it will be the final opportunity to impress the coaches before the 27-player roster cutdown to 53 on Tuesday.
Although they've already played two games, the Giants welcomed the opportunity today to work against a different opponent.
"You get tired of hitting the same guys every day," Breida said. "It was good for us to go against a different defense. Our defense, it seems like they blitz almost every play. And some of them are exotic blitzes. It was nice to finally see a more simple defense and going against those guys. For us, the running backs, I feel like it was easier to pick up the looks. Our defense gives us a hard time with a lot of their looks."
Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence said, "for sure" when asked if there was "more competitiveness" than a normal practice.
"Just not going and beating up my guys up all the time," Lawrence said. "I have to beat up on some other people, which is fun, which is always fun. Just changing the tempo of practice, not making it seem like a 'Oh, you're still in camp' kind of thing."
At the Giants' complex, two of the practice fields are parallel to each other. The work began with the Giants doing drills and stretching on Field 2, while the Jets did the same on Field 1. After the aforementioned huddle, the Giants' defense faced the Jets' offense on Field 1, while the Giants' offense worked against the Jets' defense on Field 2. Two special teams periods were also included in the practice.
Daboll and Saleh each stayed with their respective offenses. Saleh said the teams planned to finish with two-minute drills, but injuries prompted them to switch to conditioning.
"Both sides acted professionally," Saleh said. "We got a lot of good work in."
Jones certainly did. Unofficially, he completed his first 14 passes before his final throw, to Kenny Golladay, was intercepted by cornerback Bryce Hall.
"I thought overall it was a pretty good day," Jones said. "I thought we executed well against their stuff, going against a new defense. There were some things we've got to clean up, get on the same page here and there, but overall I thought it was a pretty good day."
As did everyone else, all but assuring they will reprise this exercise next summer.
"We want to make a habit of this," Saleh said.
"It's good to have a team right here across the way to compete against," Daboll said. "But again, you got to do things the right way, I think. Show respect for each other, work hard together to improve, and play football. Not interested in going to see a UFC or boxing matches or anything like that, although I love both of those (laughs). Just good, competitive football."
That's what we saw today.
*Wide receivers roundup: Sterling Shepard, who returned to practice yesterday after passing his physical, did not participate in team drills. Kadarius Toney was on the field for a few snaps in the team portion of practice. Darius Slayton, who has worked on the side, was a full participant.
*Defensive lineman Leonard Williams was also held out of team drills.