When Henry Hynoski joined the Giants as a rookie free agent last year, he had about 90 minutes to learn the Giants' offense.
Well, not really, but it seemed that way. Hynoski signed after the lockout and had never looked at the Giants' playbook when he reported to training camp. He was the only fullback on the roster, so to participate in practice he had to learn the plays immediately.
"I had to learn pretty much everything in a week's time, because my first practice I was the starting fullback when I came in," Hynoski said. "I had a good grasp of the offense right from day one."
This week, Hynoski is trying to transfer his success in learning the offense on the fly to a pair of Giants newcomers, running backs Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin. They were signed Tuesday, two days after Andre Brown suffered a fractured fibula in a victory over Green Bay.
"They had outstanding workouts and were in a need at that position there," coach Tom Coughlin said. "That's why we signed two of them."
"With Andre out we have to get the other guys rolling, we just can't rely purely on Ahmad (Bradshaw)," Hynoski said. "That's a heavy workload, so we have to get David (Wilson) and the other guys going. I just kind of took it upon myself, when we're outside the meetings, to meet with them and review some things, especially pass protection, because that's the number one thing. Obviously, that goes unnoticed, but a back has to learn you've got to protect our quarterback."
Like college studying for final exams, Torain and Lumpkin have been cramming all week to learn the philosophy, plays, blocking schemes and terminology of the Giants' offense. They've spent many hours with Ahmad Bradshaw, David Wilson, Hynoski and running backs coach Jerald Ingram, trying to learn enough so they can play if needed Monday night, when the 7-4 Giants visit the 5-6 Washington Redskins in FedEx Field.
Hynoski has been particularly busy tutoring the newest Giants.
"He's a great teacher, coach, coach's assistant," Lumpkin said. "David Wilson and Ahmad Bradshaw have been teaching on the sideline for us. (We're) just trying to learn as fast as possible and as much as possible."
Asked if either Torain or Lumpkin will play in Washington, Coughlin said, "It's a possibility."
To do so, Torain and/or Lumpkin must prove they have a grasp of the offense. Both said one of their biggest challenges is learning the Giants' verbiage. For example, many teams have a letter-based system, which Lumpkin said he is accustomed to. The Giants have a number-based system. "It's just a matter of transferring one to the other," he said.
The newcomers practiced today for the first time, primarily on the scout team and with special teams.
"I think they did a good job," quarterback Eli Manning said. "Obviously, it's a lot thrown at them very quickly, but both guys have been around a number of years, and understand that. I think they'll pick things up quickly and try to throw as much at them as possible and see what they can take in and see how much they can possibly help us this week."
Each newcomer believes he can help the Giants Monday, particularly Torain, who is a former Redskin.
Torain and Lumpkin each have NFL experience, though neither has suited up this season. The former played in 20 games with 13 starts for Denver and Washington. His career totals include 238 rushing attempts for 1,011 yards (4.2-yard average), a long run of 54 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 24 receptions for 148 yards (6.2-yard average) and two scores. Lumpkin has played in 29 games for Green Bay and Tampa Bay and has 33 carries for 124 yard (3.8-yard avg.) and 45 receptions for 325 yards (7.2-yard avg.). He had 40 rushing attempts for 160 yards for the Seattle Seahawks in the 2012 preseason.
The two new Giants had been working out regularly, hoping to get back into the league this season. Torain was in Arizona, where he attended Arizona State and was playing in a seven-on-seven league in Chandler, not the kind of football that's usually a feeder system for the NFL.
"It was just a group of guys - nothing too crazy, but definitely got to keep the cleats on," Torain said. "I knew I was going to get the call. I just had to stay positive and stay focused and keep doing the right things training, eating right, keeping myself in good shape."
Lumpkin had a job offer from a mortgage company in Atlanta (he played at the University of Georgia with former Giant D.J. Ware), but said, "I wanted to explore my NFL career and then when that time comes, a corporate job, that's where I'll go."
This week, he kept his business suits in the closet and put a football uniform on again.
For both Torain and Lumpkin, the biggest challenge is proving they can hold their own in pass protection. Giants running backs remain tethered to the sideline unless they've demonstrated they can help keep Manning upright. Hynoski has hammered that point home this week.
"That was one of the first things I was told - protect Eli and you'll get yourself on the field," Hynoski said. "What makes running backs special is their ability to run the ball, obviously. That's why they're here. You can teach a running back and a play is drawn up to a certain place, but what makes them special is that they can take it to a completely different place when it might not develop where you expect it to. The hard part is picking up pass protection. There are so many different adjustments and things like that that can happen. You have to protect the leader of your team and that's Eli. You're not going to get on the field unless you can do that."
Getting on the field Monday is the goal shared by Torain and Lumpkin.
"I'll be happy to be out there and helping the team win," Torain said. "It will be pretty good. It will be an awesome first game back. That being my former team, I'm excited to play against some of my old buddies. But it's definitely a game and we've got to go out there and play our hardest."
*With Brown sidelined, Wilson is expected to be the No. 2 back behind Bradshaw. Asked what his expectations are for the Giants' first-round draft choice, Coughlin said, "Ratchet it up. He's ready to go.
"We've had people that have had to step up in the past when situations like this have arisen. We've put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders and it's time for him. He's a first round draft choice, a talented kid. He got some plays the other night, which was a good thing. We go from there."
*Four Giants did not practice today: running back Bradshaw (foot), safety Kenny Phillips (knee), center David Baas (shoulder) and tackle David Diehl (shoulder).
Phillips aggravated his knee injury in the victory against Green Bay. Coughlin said he hopes Phillips will practice tomorrow.
Baas and Diehl each has a shoulder injury. Coughlin described Diehl as "sore."
Three players were limited: wide receiver Domenik Hixon (ankle), cornerback Jayron Hosley (shoulder) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee). Hixon did not play against Green Bay and Williams has missed the last five games.
*Offensive lineman Selvish Capers was re-signed to the practice squad.