The Giants general manager today addressed the media at the Timex Performance Center for the first time since the opening day of training camp – and one day after Steve Smith's defection to the Philadelphia Eagles unleashed a torrent of criticism from Giants fans and the media.
"It seems like people are in a little bit of a panic," Reese said.
He is not among them. Ideally, he would have retained Smith and tight end Kevin Boss, the tight end who last week signed with the Oakland Raiders. "We made responsible offers," Reese said. The players didn't accept them, so both they and the Giants have moved on.
"We have a game plan," Reese said. "We're sticking to the game plan. We have good players on the team. We're not looking to go out and make every sexy splash that can be made. We make solid football decisions."
Reese offered a position-by-position review of the team. While later answering reporters' questions, Reese left no doubt he has high expectations for the Giants. At various points in his news conference he said, a) "We feel good about our roster. We have a strong roster," b) "We feel like we have a strong squad," c) "We feel good about where we are," and most directly, d) "We're going to be good."
Like all NFL teams, the Giants have had arrivals and departures from their roster since the NFL re-opened for business after the lockout. Four offensive starters have left. Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara were released, plus Smith and Boss. Reese is enthused about the players who will step in. The Giants signed center David Baas from the San Francisco 49ers. They re-signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 1,235 yards last season.
"We went out and secured the center that we wanted," Reese said. "We thought he was the best center in the market. We felt he was a Pro Bowl-level kind of center for us. (He's) our kind of guy – flexible, he can play guard or center and make us strong up the middle.
"We went out and did that right away. It's not sexy. It's not like a receiver or a cornerback. But the guy touches the ball every offensive play, so it's important to us to have a secure guy like him."
Reese said keeping Bradshaw was a priority.
"That was important to us," Reese said. "That gives us (with Brandon Jacobs) a couple of running backs with starter experience who have rushed for over a thousand yards."
Reese is convinced the Giants are on the right track. He is excited about the potential of new left tackle Will Beatty and said "we feel good about where we are right now with the offensive line."
Although Smith has moved on, the Giants have Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, who combined for 139 catches for 2,058 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan, Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden (when he comes off the PUP list) will all have opportunities in the preseason to earn playing time.
"We have some receivers," Reese said. "Obviously, we continue to look every day for better players on our roster."
That includes tight end, though Reese believes the Giants already have productive players in uniform.
"We do have tight ends," Reese said. "Kevin caught 35 balls last year. We have Travis Beckum, we think he can catch 35 balls. We think some of the other young tight ends we have can contribute as a receiver as well. There's plenty of room for guys to step up. We expect them to. We've drafted guys at those positions. We expect them to step up."
Reese is well aware that Smith and Boss were favorite targets of quarterback Eli Manning.
"When we drafted Kevin Boss and Steve Smith, the same people who were sending me mail saying they don't like those guys, are the same guys saying now, 'Why did you let them go?'" Reese said. "That's football. That's the way it is. We feel good about our squad. Somebody has to step up. Again, we had two receivers last year play really well."
Reese is also upbeat about the Giants' defense, particularly the line. He said he "hopes" Osi Umenyiora will practice on Monday, the first workout after the preseason opener Saturday night at Carolina. Umenyiora traveled to Atlanta to have his sore knee examined today.
"We should be good upfront," he said. "I expect our front to be really good. Osi, we expect to be back in the fold. I'm not going to make any comments on that situation but there are still some issues that we are trying to resolve. We expect him to be back and our defensive front should be strong. It should be the strong part of our defense."
The linebackers have been strengthened by Mathias Kiwanuka, who returns to the strong side after playing defensive end the previous two seasons.
"Kiwanuka is out there and he is our joker," Reese said. "He can play linebacker, he can play as an end and he can play as a tackle inside. He brings a lot of versatility for us and that's what we like about him."
As for the defensive backfield…
"We should be better back there in the secondary," Reese said. "Kenny Phillips should be better in his second year coming off the knee. Antrel Rolle … he is going into his second year in this defense. Our corners, Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross are having good camps and of course, Prince (Amukamara) our first round draft pick. It is unfortunate he broke his foot but we expect him back. Hopefully after the first four games we can get him back but we won't rush it."
The football public might be skeptical about the Giants' personnel decisions, but the man who makes them is convinced the team is moving in the right direction.
"We feel good about our roster and we have a strong roster," Reese said. "We will continue to try to make it stronger."
Reese discussed several other topics during his news conference:
*On Smith, who in 46 regular season games in four years with the Giants caught 220 passes – including a Giants-record 107 in 2009 - for 2,386 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"Steve did a tremendous job for us while he was here," Reese said. "But it's free agency. Guys leave in free agency. That's the way it is sometimes. Nobody really owes you anything in free agency. It's almost a dog-eat-dog kind of situation in free agency. But it happens sometimes – guys go to different teams. …Steve moved on. We're happy for him. I hope he gets healthy and plays for a long time."
*Reese brought up another free agent receiver who chose to go elsewhere, former Giant Plaxico Burress, who visited with the team before signing with the Jets.
"The Plaxico Burress thing, we made a responsible offer to him as well," Reese said. "He decided to move on and go a different direction. It is free agency and that's what happens in free agency. Sometimes you get guys and sometimes you don't."
*On whether he draws inspiration from 2007, when Reese was criticized for inactivity and then Giants went on to win Super Bowl XLII.
"How many big, sexy moves did the Green Bay Packers make last year?" Reese said of the defending champions. "I don't remember a lot. Who won before? Pittsburgh. How many big, sexy moves did they have? You develop players. The making the splash, the big sexy moves, I don't know if that always works. … You make solid football decisions. You get good continuity on your team. You play as a team. You give yourself a chance to win. I don't know if all the big, sexy moves are the right way to go."
*Coach Tom Coughlin conceded he was unhappy to see Smith depart.
"I'm disappointed, obviously," Coughlin said. "We thought he'd be a Giant all the way. With the circumstances and the fact that Dr. (Russell) Warren did the surgery, I think we know quite a bit about what it takes to get him back on the field but having said all that, we certainly know that that's the nature of our business. There were some disappointing factors involved which I'm not going to get into because I'm not the one to speak on that but we're disappointed that he's not here."
*Jernigan switched his jersey number from No. 3 to No. 12, which had been worn by Smith.
*Today's list of players who missed practice was the same as yesterday's: tight end Travis Beckum (hamstring), linebacker Clint Sintim (knee), center Jim Cordle (knee), wide receiver Sam Giguere (groin), cornerback Joe Burnett (hamstring), safety Brian Jackson (back) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee). Domenik Hixon, who practices every other day to protect his surgically-repaired knee, did not work. Hixon said he will play Saturday.
*Today's training camp attendance was 1,107.
*The regular season begins a month from today in Washington.
*The Giants have instituted a phone hotline for fans seeking information about training camp practices. Fans may call 201-935-9385 to learn about practices times and other camp info.
*Timex, the official training partner of the Giants, is providing 20 lucky fans and their guests a VIP experience hosted by Super Bowl XXV MVP Ottis Anderson at the Timex Performance Center on Friday, August 19. The deadline to enter is tomorrow. Fans can do so by visiting Giants.com/Timex.