The Giants were back at it Thursday for the team's second training camp practice.
Head coach Brian Daboll spoke to the media prior to practice, while running back Saquon Barkley, defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and wide receiver Darius Slayton spoke after.
Here is a roundup of what we heard at Thursday's press conferences.
Saquon: 'I followed my heart' in coming back
The Giants got one of their best players and team leaders back in the fold Tuesday morning when Saquon Barkley signed the franchise tag and reported to training camp.
The star running back spoke to the media Thursday for the first time since the end of last season.
"The reality of it is, I mean, one, I kind of just followed my heart," Barkley said about deciding to return to the team for the start of camp. "Obviously, I heard what everyone was saying in the news and on social media, but I kind of just followed my heart. And then you've got to look at it from a business point, from a business view, I felt like, what's the best thing that I can do? Some people may agree or disagree with this, to sit out or sit in, and I feel like for this year specifically, the best thing that I can do for myself would be coming back, going out there and play the game that I love, playing for my teammates, doing something that I've wanted to do since I was a little kid.
"Obviously, I know what's going on with the running back situation and me being tagged and the value of the running back continually going down. The only way that I feel like that's going to change is someone has to make it change. God willing, hopefully I can be one of the people to do it."
Schmitz works with first team; 'good competition at certain spots'
On the first day of training camp, it was veteran Ben Bredeson lining up at center with the first team offense. Daboll shared with the media Thursday morning that the team would be rotating guys in at a few positions this summer, including center, where John Michael Schmitz worked with the starting offense on Thursday.
"He's a smart guy, he works hard," Daboll said about the rookie center. "That's a good room in terms of the veterans really helping out the younger players. There's a lot, as you know, on your plate, playing center. He's a very cerebral; he's intelligent. He's made progress since he's been here."
The Giants have battles for the starting spots at several different positions, including inside linebacker (next to Bobby Okereke) and safety (next to Xavier McKinney), among others.
"There is good competition at some certain spots," the head coach said about the various position battles. "You will see it out there. We're rotating different positions and giving everybody a fair opportunity to go out there and show what they can do. Offensively, defensively, different spots in the kicking game, whether it's on the punt team, the kickoff team. That's the time to do it, right now, to make sure you're giving everybody a fair shot in a competitive situation."
Lawrence: 'Our mindset is win'
The Giants signed several of their core plays to long-term extensions this offseason, with Dexter Lawrence being one of them. Lawrence is coming off the best season of his career, which coincided with the franchise's best campaign in the last five years. While a lot has been said about the team as a whole trending in the right direction, the All-Pro defensive lineman said the only thing he's focused on is winning.
"I don't want to talk about building," Lawrence said. "It's more about doing at this point. Going into my fifth season, and I hate losing. I don't really want to talk about building. I want to talk about what we are doing today to get better for tomorrow, and then that day leads into the season. You all can talk about building but our mindset is winning."
The Giants went 9-7-1 in the regular season last year, which was good enough to earn them one of the NFC's Wild Card spots. However, four of their seven losses came against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, something that Lawrence knows the team must improve.
"Last year we lost to them both," the defensive lineman said. "This season is to train, day-by-day to improve. If I'm not making somebody across the ball better than me, then I messed up and I let my team down. It's all about just progressing each day, each day. Those days stack until you build something beautiful, and it shines on Sundays or Mondays or Thursdays, or Saturdays or whenever they want to give us a game."
View photos from the first practice of training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Slayton: DJ has no ceiling in Year 2
The 2022 campaign saw several Giants put together the best seasons of their careers, including quarterback Daniel Jones. The 26-year-old completed a career-best and franchise-high 67.2 percent of his passes while also setting a new personal high of 3,205 passing yards.
Jones is entering his second year in coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka's offense. Darius Slayton told the media that the quarterback's familiarity in the system has been palpable.
"He's comfortable," Slayton shared with reporters. "I think – what's that quarterback documentary? Was it (Vikings QB) Kirk Cousins? I think talked about his first year in that system and just like for a quarterback, a system is like your baby. You've got to know it in and out, so obviously for DJ having a year of it (and) coming into his second year he knows it already. It's not like he's trying to learn it and execute it. He already knows, so now he can execute, play fast, and make adjustments within it."
Slayton, who entered the NFL in the same draft class as Jones, has developed a nice connection with the QB over the years. In 49 games with Jones under center, the 6-foot-1 receiver has registered 151 receptions for 2,209 yards and 11 touchdowns.
As for the 2023 campaign, Slayton believes the sky is the limit for the fifth-year quarterback.
"I don't think he has one," the receiver said about Jones' ceiling. "I think he's a talented quarterback (and) we've got a talented group. As long as we play well (and) we block well, he'll make all the plays he needs to make."
Injury updates: Hyatt fine, Nunez-Roches 'sore'
Wide receiver Jalin Hyatt was spotted leaving practice early on Wednesday. However, the head coach told the media Thursday morning that the rookie was just dealing with the heat, and that he would be good to go on Day 2.
"He got a little hot at the end there. Took a few reps, but he will be good to go," Daboll said before practice about the rookie wide receiver.
The other player that was not seen practicing Wednesday or Thursday, other than the guys on the PUP list, was defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches. The defensive lineman was in an auto accident on Tuesday, but Daboll said the veteran should be fine.
"He's sore," said the head coach. "He won't practice again today. It could have been worse, so I'm glad he's where he is right now. I think he's making progress."