Eli Manning and Cullen Jenkins could not have had more different starts to their careers.
Manning, a quarterback from Ole Miss, was drafted No. 1 overall and traded to a Giants team building toward a new future. Jenkins went undrafted out of Central Michigan. And no one is looking for a defensive tackle to become a face of a franchise.
But here they are together embarking on their 12th kickoff weekend in the NFL.
After all the years of highs, lows, bumps, bruises, and grinds, the buildup to Week 1 never gets old -- even for a pair of 34-year-olds.
"No it doesn't," said Jenkins, who was born 17 days after Manning in 1981. "Especially, primetime against a division opponent, if you can't get hyped for this, you shouldn't be playing."
For Manning, this will be his fourth time -- and third in the last four years -- opening against the Dallas Cowboys in his career. He will do so on the road at AT&T Stadium, where he is 4-2 as a starter.
"I think it's good to start in the division," said Manning, who is surpassed by only 36-year-old kicker Josh Brown in age on the team. "Sunday night, it should be a great environment and a very good team. They were strong last year, good on defense. Offensively, very, very strong. So we know we've got to go out there and play well. They're going to be fired up, it's going to be loud, but those are fun environments to play in. Hopefully we're up to the challenge."
As for their head coach, Tom Coughlin has been around the block a few times himself since taking his first head coaching job in 1991 at Boston College.
"Just as excited, just as nervous, just as anxious to get started," Coughlin said. "Just as anxious to see our team on the field. So, no, nothing, no emotion. All the same."
All three were speaking on Wednesday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, where it's all systems go for game week. In three days, the team will travel to the home of their NFC East rivals.
"Well, I'm excited to see how they respond, obviously, to going to Dallas and opening the season there," Coughlin said. "There's a few guys that have been through that experience when it was a positive thing, a plus. But basically, it's seeing our team come together, seeing us pull together now that we're at 53, plus the 10 practice squad kids. I'm looking forward to that part of it."
Meanwhile, media buzzed around facility today as the season draws closer. Here are three main takeaways from the day:
1. JPP returned to South Florida.
For the first time since suffering serious hand injuries during a July 4 fireworks accident, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul visited the Giants this week and was examined by team doctors. However, he was not medically cleared for football activities and returned home to Florida.
"As you know, JPP was here for a couple of days," Coughlin said. "Went through all the medical. Was in an outstanding frame of mind. Was not ready to play, returned to South Florida.
Optimistic about going forward and feeling better, and continuing to work towards being able to come back. So we'll monitor that, and I don't have anything further to add."
2. Injury Report.
The first official injury report of the week included wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf), who did not participate in practice. Cruz's Week 1 return from a season-ending knee injury may be in jeopardy.
"Obviously, if this was strictly the knee or whatever, I think he'd be out there," Coughlin said.
"The calf is what set him back. It's not the knee, it's the calf. There's been some communication around the league with other clubs. For whatever reason, these things are very, very hard to get over. And we've experienced it before, obviously [Nat] Berhe is a great example of that. But that's what is holding him back, not the other."
Meanwhile, Jenkins (hamstring) and linebackers Jon Beason (knee) and Jonathan Casillas (neck) were limited.
3. New-look offensive line prepares for first major test.
An offensive line that has different players at all five positions compared to this time last year will open up together on the road, in primetime, and against the rival Cowboys.
"It's definitely a big game for us," said Justin Pugh, who moved from right tackle to left guard this year. "We got to go out there and it's going to be a crazy environment. That first quarter when they have the flames going, the cheerleaders dancing around—we got to go out there focus in, lock into our game, run the ball, and then give Eli some time.
"It definitely makes it more intense. It's Sunday night, everybody is going to be tuning in, everyone's going to be watching. So it's a lot of excitement in the locker room."
Playmakers on Cowboys first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike