EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Chris Canty and Michael Boley are easy to pick out of the crowd of 80 Giants players in training camp. It has nothing to do with their numbers or the fact that at a shade over 6-7, Canty is the team's tallest player.
Training camp can be an exercise in drudgery, but Canty and Boley are two of the few people in uniform who are smiling through it. The players put in long days of practice and meetings at the University at Albany, more than two hours from home, but these guys look as if there's no place they'd rather be.
"It's not going too far to say that I'm enjoying training camp," said Canty, a six-year veteran. "I'm loving being out here with the guys. I'm loving having the opportunity to play and participate, and this is my passion. This is what I love to do. You know, nobody is making me play football. I love to do this. So I'm just thankful that God is giving me another opportunity to be out here on this football field and be with these guys and try to improve as a football player and help this football team any way I can."
Boley echoes those sentiments. Both players are so excited about 2010 because if nothing else, it helps them permanently erase 2009. They were considered the Giants' key veteran offseason acquisitions after joining the team on consecutive days when the free agency signing period commenced last year. Canty was expected to bolster the defensive line at two positions, while Boley was going to be a productive fixture at weakside linebacker.
But each was beset by injuries. Boley missed training camp after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. He did not play in the season opener, returned for three games, then had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. Boley, who had never missed a game in four years with the Atlanta Falcons, played in 11 in his Giants debut season. He still finished sixth on the team with 66 tackles (50 solo) and was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after a nine-tackle performance (including a sack) in a victory over the Falcons.
"I was battling some injuries last year and didn't get a chance to play to my full potential," Boley said. "Coming back after the hip, obviously, it took me a couple games to kind of get my legs back and get really going because I missed everything last year. I missed OTA's, training camp, I was on the PUP (physically unable to perform list) starting out, so I didn't get to do any team activities. So it was all just kind of working on my own and not getting a feel for the other 10 guys on the field. After a couple games things start falling in place, and then I was back out with the knee. But I'm healthy this year and looking forward to a better one."
Canty had likewise never sat out a game in four years with the Dallas Cowboys, but his 2009 season followed the same narrative as Boley's. He missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, weeks 2-8 with a calf strain and the season finale with a knee injury suffered in practice. Canty had 23 tackles after averaging 37 a season in his four years in Dallas.
"It's always frustrating when you have to sit out and you're not able to help your teammates," said Canty, who spent so much time in the Timex Performance Center in the offseason he probably should have had his mail delivered there. "You're not able to play a game that you love because deep down all these guys love playing football. When you spend time away from it, it's like, 'wow, I didn't realize how much I miss it' until you have that experience. For me, it was just kind of going through that whole process again. It was just very frustrating, so I tried to do everything within my power to make sure that this offseason I had my body in tremendous condition coming into training camp, so I could avoid some of those nicks and bruises and be available for the football team in any capacity that they needed me. I'm just thankful. I'm happy to be able to come out here and do that."
This was just the third day of practice, but the early returns are good. Although it's more difficult for outsiders to judge linemen when they're not wearing pads, Canty has become a fixture at right defensive tackle. The linebackers and defensive backs have fielded many questions regarding the differences at their positions in Perry Fewell's defense, but Canty said the linemen are also traveling on a learning curve.
"It's a lot more different," Canty said. "I think we're trying to do a lot more things to stay more gap sound. We're trying to be aggressive, but we want to stay fundamentally sound. There's been an emphasis on that. It is a little bit different, but I like it. I really like it. I'm all about it - the 'stud defense' as Perry calls it."
Canty played both end and tackle with the Cowboys and started his Giants tenure playing both positions. He's been exclusively a tackle in this camp, but that might not be permanent.
"I like where they have me at tackle right now, but I've been made aware that there's going to be some movement," Canty said. "I am going to be moving around. I'm fine with that. Anything that the team needs me to do, I'm fine with that because I'm prepared and ready to go."
So is Boley. He looked forward to the opening of camp, not only to finally turn the page on 2009, but to begin preparing for what he believes will be a successful 2010 for the team and him.
"I expect big things," Boley said. "I can't express how it feels, how good it feels to be back out here and actually be healthy and not worry about the little nicks and injuries."
Boley was so eager for a fresh beginning he changed his uniform number from 52 to the No. 59 he wore with the Falcons.
"I wanted it back - 52 to me, it just wasn't doing it for me last year," Boley said. "(It was) a rough year for me. So I figured I would try to get back to what got me here."
He appeared to be there in practice today. Boley dove and was parallel to the ground when he intercepted a short Eli Manning pass for Steve Smith. He also ran sideline to sideline in his pursuit of ballcarriers.
"He's very athletic, fast, and very good in coverage," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "He can play and does play on special teams. He's carrying a little bit of extra weight and hopefully that will be recognized in his ability to play the run."
If Clint Sintim remains with the first team on the strong side and Keith Bulluck wins the middle linebacker job, Boley will actually have more experience with the Giants than any starter in the group.
"(I've) got to be a leader," Boley said. "It's not something that's given to you. It's something that you've got to want to do, and being a leader is something that this defense needs. Every team needs a leader. If I've got to be it, I'm willing to do it."
A year ago, Canty, Boley and reserve tackle Rocky Bernard were expected to be stalwarts on the Giants defense. But the three players were on the field together in just six games.
"We were all sitting around joking the other day," Boley said. "We're all back. We're all healthy, and that's good for us."
And for the Giants.
Practice highlights: In the morning, rookie safety Michael Greco intercepted a Rhett Bomar pass for Derek Hagan and returned it up the field escorted by safeties/secondary coach David Merritt. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell joined the convoy near the end of the play…Greco almost picked off a Hagan option pass to Sinorice Moss…Manning threw a long pinpoint pass to Steve Smith.
In the afternoon, Lawrence Tynes kicked for the first time in camp and made all eight of his field goal attempts at distances ranging from 20 to 47 yards. Perhaps more significantly, rookie punter/holder Matt Dodge did a good job handling a couple of low snaps from Zak DeOssie…Ramses Barden made a couple of impressive leaping catches, including one in which he used his long arms to take the ball away from Michael Johnson…Cornerback Aaron Ross tipped and then picked off a Bomar pass in the middle of the field.
*Recently retired punter Jeff Feagles arrived in camp to work with Dodge. Feagles said he will stay for two or three days this week and return to Albany next week.
*Center Shaun O'Hara traveled to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, where an exam revealed no new injury to his swollen left ankle. The swelling is the result of a chronic condition in the joint, which is being treated to reduce the swelling and regain the mobility.
*Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, on a one-workout-a-day regimen, hyperextended his right knee near the end of the afternoon practice. He will undergo an MRI this evening and will be examined tomorrow…Wide receiver Mario Manningham (groin) and tight end Travis Beckum (hamstring) did not practice.
*The Giants will spend tomorrow in meetings and working on their conditioning. They will return to the field Thursday of their first two full-pads practices.
*Tickets are available for the first Giants Kickoff Luncheon to be held in the New Meadowlands Stadium. The charitable event will be held on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Gridiron Club, located between the Pepsi and Verizon gates at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
In addition to introducing the 2010 Giants, the team will honor Amani Toomer with the Giants Alumni Man of the Year Award.
Hackensack University Medical Center and the Giants have begun a partnership that gives fans a unique opportunity to support one of the nation's healthcare leaders while showing support for New York's favorite team. All proceeds from the luncheon and raffle will be donated to a very special program: the Touchdown Fund: Score for Kids, Cardiac and Cancer launched earlier this year by the Medical Center and the Giants and focusing on three core areas of healthcare.
Giants fans can join Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the entire team and the raffle will include a grand prize trip to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas (including round trip airfare and hotel accommodations for four nights).
For more information, call 201-996-3722.
*Today's attendance was 2,175 (1,195 in the morning, 980 in the afternoon), increasing the camp total to 5,760.
When the Ravens were at their best they had two defensive tackles that commanded double teams. Do the Giants have two guys in the middle that can attract similar attention that can free up the ends to make big plays?
I don't like to compare players on different teams and from different years, but I certainly think the Giants have plenty of talent at defensive tackle, provided everyone stays healthy. Chris Canty has been noticeably frisky in the first few practices and is determined to have a big year after missing half of last season with an injury. Barry Cofield is a fifth-year pro who has improved every season and is a fixture in the middle of the line. I would be surprised if many opposing teams have success running inside against those two. Jay Alford, who missed last season with a knee injury, and Rocky Bernard, who played with a sore shoulder, will be in the mix, as will second-round draft choice Linval Joseph. So the answer to your question is a confident yes.
If you'd like to submit a question or comment to Michael, click here.