The Giants players returned to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for offseason workouts
QB Eli Manning
Q: Last year was the first year under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, what is the next step this offense can take?
A: I think there is definitely room for improvement. We can still cut down on the turnovers. I think we need to score more points as an offense. I think the second half of the season we showed improvement from the first half, especially those last six games we were doing some good things offensively and scoring more points and [being] more efficient on third down. Anytime you are in a new offense, you want to see improvements and you want to see a progression of getting better and having a better understanding of concepts and eliminating some of the bad plays. I thought we did a good job of doing that, so we have to build off that and understand that we have to work our tails off this time of year and into training camp to make sure we are making those improvements to have a great understanding of the offense and [having] everyone playing at a high level so we can play the way we need to [in order] to win more games.
Q: Last year the 70 percent completion rate was an early season goal… Have you sat down with the coaching staff and set any similar goals?
A: That is kind of what we are doing right now. I think the turnovers from interceptions…I had 14 last year. I would like to get that in single digits. I think that is kind of a goal every year. That eight number. You would obviously like to have zero, but understanding football and funny things can happen, so one every two games (is the) mindset. Overall completion percentage, you aim for that 70 percent again. I think of that from a game to game standpoint. I want to be 70 percent for this game. It might not happen every single game, but if you can go for that by game, sometimes you might not get it, and for the season it might not be 70 percent, but each game shoot for that 70 percent.
Q: How was the mood there today coming in, especially with this year being a win or out opposition this year for you guys?
A: I thought the mood was good. Everybody was excited to be back. I recognize more faces this year than last year. Last year we had a lot of new players, on offense and defense. I thought coming in last year my first priority was to learn my teammates, which was ahead of learning the offensive playbook. This year you still have some new guys, which you always do. [There are] more familiar faces all around and you should be able to build a pretty good understanding of the offense going in and now [we] can keep learning that and get better with it.
Q: What was Victor [Cruz] able to do when you guys were down at Duke?
A: I asked Victor. I told him we were going down and I obviously wanted him to come if he wanted to and he felt it would beneficial. I didn't want to take away from his rehab. He was able to rehab down there, but I think just getting back into the meetings and seeing the plays run and hearing the verbiage of everything. Obviously we were doing some different things those last ten games than we did the first six. Just hearing the verbiage, hearing everything again, the ins and outs of the whole offense. He was able to spot-up for some things, some light jogging. I didn't want him to push anything or do anything that [he] would have any setbacks, but just catching passes and hearing plays called and thinking about what he has to run. We would split up at times where it was just Giants players and go over signals, go over checks and just get the mind back into football and what this new offense is for him also.
Q: Odell Beckham and you had an amazing relationship looking at the numbers, but what improvement do you feel the two of you still have to make?
A: I think there is definitely room for improvement. There are still some miss throws. There are still some – a lot of things we didn't get the reps on the timing, so some of the timing throws because we didn't have a whole lot of time to practice. We didn't have an offseason. We didn't have a training camp to practice those things. Odell was doing a great job of getting separation and winning on things, and he does have great body control and he is precise in his route running, so it makes it easier to be on the same page without a whole lot of practice. I think we can definitely get better with our timing. There were still some miscues and definitely room for improvement.
Q: Going back to the workouts at Duke… Jon Beason was talking about how it was difficult because of the new CBA rules to study the playbook and brush up on Spagnuolo's playbook… Was this workout designed to work around the rules?
A: Yeah, because of the CBA rules it is difficult to work out with your guys. You can't come to our facility and work out at the Giants facility and throw routes and throw a ball. This is a place where instead of trying to go to local high schools where you just don't know what the field conditions are or what the timing is and having a chance to get into meeting rooms. It is a chance to go and have three days where you are going to have the facilities you need, the fields and the trainers. Everything you would have at the Giants facility, we can do it at Duke and get great work in. It is just a way to get a jumpstart on what we are about to get into in those OTA's. Just get the mind back on football and receivers to catch passes and for me to be throwing routes to my guys and for me to get my mind back into the football things of calling plays, going over signals and those types of things. I think because of the rules it makes it hard to work with your guys, which I think is a little ridiculous at this level that that is the case, but those are the rules that we decided on, so we have to abide by them. This is a way for us to work and still have all the facilities that we need.
Q: How much of a comfort is it for you to have a safety valve in Shane Vereen now in the fold?
A: I'm excited to work with Shane and see how he can help out our offense. I think Rashad Jennings and Andre [Williams] did a great job last year and can do that. Shane, from what I have seen on film and from watching the Patriots, has a unique skill set that we will have to find ways to get him touches out of the backfield and move him around. I am excited to see how we will use him in different ways and how it will help us out.
Q: Has there been any progress on a contract extension and are you comfortable going into this season in the last year of your contract?
A: Yeah, I am comfortable. I have a job to do and that is to play football and that is my only concern, so I have never got too caught up with contract stuff. The way I look at it is that I have one more year and I am going to play that one more year and go from there.
LB Jon Beason
Q: Where do you stand health-wise?
A: The problem with training is it is hard to simulate pushing into another man or making a tackle. That is the toughest part about trying to get ready to gauge where you are physically, but in terms of training, I have had an outstanding offseason. I am in great shape. I am running around and changing directions. Everything feels good. I am just being smart and continuing to focus on those little muscles and not do too much and a lot is based on recovering. You hit it a little bit, recover and see how it feels the next day. I was rehabbing every day back home. I was training every day. I was able to double up some days. It has been a process, but it's been a good one. I feel good about where we are today. Obviously, we start preparing to win a championship now, but the season starts in September.
Q: Are you cleared to do whatever is asked of you during OTA's and the whole offseason program?
A: I didn't do a bulk of my rehab, I am sure I will have to check in with Ronnie [Barnes] and the gang and get cleared based on what they say. I feel good, but obviously I am going to listen to them based on my limitations or what they want me or not do.
Q: Do you make any changes this year? There have been some injuries in the past… Do you do anything different to try and stay healthy throughout the season?
A: Football is a tough sport. You look at a guy like London Fletcher, a guy who never missed a game. It never happens, but he takes care of himself obviously. Injuries are by chance. Some of the best players never made it to the NFL because they got hurt in college or high school and that is just part of the deal. You go into it and you try to dot all the I's and cross all the T's and make sure you do everything possible to make sure that you are addressing the injury, but also what are the compensation patterns, what is the muscle that something else could happen to or other body part? Everything is connected and it is tough to gauge what is next, but you feel like you knock on wood and hopefully this year everything works out because you do your due diligence and do your part and hopefully it does. That is my approach. That is how I feel. I feel when healthy, I am the best in the game, and that is my motto going into the 2015 campaign. It is no different. I am going to be healthy every game and instead of talking about every game, my focus is the opener and have practiced the whole week and go out there and play prepared as opposed to just playing for will and your mental capacity based on how long you have been in the league and just being a veteran. I am looking forward to having the mental part meet the physical preparation and going out there and being the best I can be.
Q: What kind of offseason have you had learning this new defense?
A: As much as I would like to, I wish I could. You go into the offseason and ask to keep the iPad, but unfortunately if they let you keep the iPad then they still have to wipe it clean, so in terms of what I have done on my own from a mental standpoint, you really can't do much in terms of being with the coaches or getting the scheme. We got in today and you get a chance to kind of see [Spagnuolo's] style, in terms of preparing for a team and going over some philosophies and core principles and some objectives that we want to get done in this offseason. [Spagnuolo] is very sharp. He is passionate about what he is doing and he is never going to limit himself to just doing one thing. You have to be able to change on the fly. Be a thinker and think outside the box and that part of it puts a lot of pressure on you now. We can't be [at the facility] but for so long, so [we] are going to have to go home and study like a rookie. It is going to be interesting, but sometimes it is good to learn new things and new terminology and that part of it is part of the offseason and the way it is constructed now because of the new CBA.
Q: Did you have a conversation with Antonio Pierce or any of Spags' former players to get a sense of what the role is going to be?
A: Yeah, my rookie year was that year in 2007. I was a big fan of Antonio Pierce. When I watched him it was more so what he did for his fellow teammates. The way he got them in the right defense and was able to not be dictated by the offense and that made me a big fan of Spags. Obviously [the Giants] were one of the top defenses that year and they won the whole thing. In my opinion, based on being led on a great defensive team and I was always a fan of his from afar. Now having the opportunity to play for him is something I really look forward to it. I did have a conversation with Antonio Pierce and Jonathan Vilma and they all had good things to say about him. I am looking forward to it and just trying to do my part and make sure I live up to the hype.
Q: With Antrel [Rolle] no longer with you guys… There has been talk about a leadership void. Do you have to do anything differently from a leadership perspective to get this defense up and running?
A: You harp on leadership and it is important. I think leadership boils down to want-to. People follow the guy who is really there for a purpose and a reason. If that reason is to be productive and win football games at all costs, then guys tend to follow you. For me and this team, especially losing a great player, great person and a true competitor like Antrel Rolle, I am challenging guys to lead by being on time, staying late and studying, by trying to be blameless and do their job at a high level and be consistent at it. That is the leader that I am looking to follow. All the stuff about necessarily being vocal and the 'rah rah' guys, at the end of the day that is not what leaders are. You lead by example first and that is what I have always done. I concern myself by always trying to be blameless, playing hard and throughout the course of my career, guys have followed that and that is what I want. All 90 guys at this point -- you are a leader, come out and be that person.
Q: Last year a couple of your teammates said the chemistry didn't come together until later in the season… Are you guys planning to do anything differently to facilitate or expedite the chemistry coming together?
A: Last year is last year. You talk about chemistry; from top to bottom we are different. Obviously a new coordinator who everyone has to adapt to and you hit your stride late because you spend that much time together throughout the course of the season and at some point, you hope a light bulb goes off and we start playing all in unison. The things that we can do differently this year are – we have to start all over again. We have to completely reset. Don't worry about where you played or how you played in college, just buy into a system and say whatever my coach asks me to do, that is what I am going to do. I think if we do that, we will be on the same page and we will get guys at one time doing one thing right as opposed to 11 guys doing something different at one time.
RB Shane Vereen
Q: What has this offseason been like for you? What went into your decision to talk to the Giants?
A: This offseason has been great. I was fortunate enough to be part of a championship team last year and since then, everything has kept moving in a forward direction. I am fortunate enough to be here and be a Giant now. I am looking forward to it. I was excited to get the news.
Q: Who do you know around there and what made that decision feel like the right one?
A: I know a couple of the guys, not too many compared to other teams in the league. There are a couple guys I worked out with out in California. We work out in the same area and now that I am in here and getting to know even more – I actually prefer not knowing that many because it will force me now to step outside my comfort zone and meet some new faces. I am looking forward to it.
Q: Have the coaches given you an idea of what your role is going to be?
A: They haven't defined any roles yet. I am coming in just trying to work hard and make a role for myself. I am trying to improve this team in any way I can. I know it is a very talented running back group. I am just looking forward to adding my talents to an already talented crew.
Q: Are you going to the White House with the Patriots this week?
A: Yeah, I will be.
Q: Excited about that?
A: Yeah, very excited, very excited. It always has been something I have wanted to do. I can check it off my bucket list. I am looking forward to meeting the president.
Q: What was that like for you to leave New England? Did you seriously contemplate going back or was it not going to work out financially?
A: I contemplated going back because I am so close and so tight with those teammates. I had been there for four years, it is comfortable for me and it is what I have known. At the same time, I am excited to step out of that comfort zone. I am excited to experience something new with another fantastic organization. I don't see any wrong with either decision I could have made.