"Who wants to ask the first Osi question?" Coughlin said.
Almost everyone, actually. Osi Umenyiora practiced today for the first time in training camp at the Timex Performance Center. He had missed the first 11 workouts and the preseason opener in Carolina with a sore knee. On Friday, the two-time Pro Bowler was examined in Atlanta by a specialist, who gave him the go-ahead to practice, setting up that first query to Coughlin: "How is it to have Osi back?"
"It was good," he said. "It was spirited and I thought the practice was very good. He jumped right in there and tries to beat the ball (at the snap) like he normally does. It was good to see. Again, it is a nice battle for the left tackle (Will Beatty) on that side and JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) going to both sides serves us well in terms of the rotation."
Coughlin later said Umenyiora is "not behind in any meetings. The football part he is up on completely."
Umenyiora did not speak to the media, but several teammates said they are glad to have him back on the field.
"We are excited," said Chris Canty, the defensive tackle who lines up next to Umenyiora. "He is a tremendous football player and a great teammate, so having him out here is going to be awesome for us. We are just putting more bullets in the gun."
"I said from day one that I've enjoyed seeing him around here," guard Chris Snee said. "His presence alone is good for the team. I just hope he takes it easy on us as he goes out there with fresh legs today coming off the edge. Yeah, whenever he's out there practicing with us, it's a good thing."
Umenyiora took most of the first-team snaps at his familiar right defensive end position. The rest went to second-year pro Pierre-Paul, who also filled in for Justin Tuck at left end. Pierre-Paul had two sacks against the Panthers. If everyone in the group stays healthy, including linebacker and sometimes lineman Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants will have four lethal outside pass rushers to torment opposing quarterbacks.
"Having the quality defensive ends we have, all of us make each other better," Tuck said. "From a practice standpoint, getting to work with him and learn things on the fly with him being on the field. With him on the football field on Sundays, it makes it very difficult between either one of us. You've kind of got to pick and choose. Then you throw JPP in the mix, it really gives us a lot of freedom to do a lot of different things. So we definitely make each other better."
"Osi is a great player, he is one of our top defensive pass rushers," Pierre-Paul said. "He gets to the ball quickly. I'm still trying to learn how to get around the corner and work my footwork out and he is going to teach me all of that and so will Tuck and Kiwanuka and all the defensive players. I am just going to learn from them."
Pierre-Paul, the Giants' first-round draft choice in 2010, had worked with the starters since the beginning of camp. Although he seemed to play well enough to earn a chance to compete for the job, it is still Umenyiora's. And that is fine with Pierre-Paul.
"It is going to be a rotation again and the coaches already told me that I am going to be working both sides," Pierre-Paul said. "I am not going to be on one side. I will be playing right end and left defensive end. That is how I played last year. That's basically it."
Umenyiora's presence certainly strengthens the Giants' defense. He has, after all, led the Giants or tied for the team lead in sacks in six of the last seven seasons. The only season since 2004 he was not atop the team's sack rankings was 2008, when he missed the entire year after undergoing knee surgery.
But two lingering questions remained about Umenyiora: his state of mind and the ongoing condition of his knee.
In addition to the knee soreness, Umenyiora has expressed unhappiness with his contract. But his teammates insist that hasn't affected his preparation for the season.
"When he steps on a football field, his focus is as high as anybody's," Tuck said. "He knows how to separate the game. A lot of guys don't have the capability. I know he does."
"He's been alert at meetings, been at every practice, hasn't said much, paid attention, getting his knee right and I think it was more of a media stunt to make it a bigger deal than what it really was," cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "He has been a team player about this the whole time. It's unfortunate about the situation, but I'm happy that it was all corrected and he's being a Giant again."
Asked if he hoped the contract issue was "behind him now," Coughlin said, "I hope so and that's all I am going on. He is here and he wants to work. He wants to be a part of the team and we certainly want him to be but we want it all. We don't want part of it, we want it all and I am hoping that's the way it is."
Coughlin isn't yet certain exactly how Umenyiora's knee will have to be managed going forward.
"I haven't been told the exact schedule," Coughlin said. "Hopefully it will be with the days off and that type of thing before we have to worry about that type of thing. I wouldn't be surprised that he has to from time-to-time just stay out of it for a practice."
Yet to be decided is whether Umenyiora will play in the next preseason game, a week from tonight at home against the Chicago Bears.
"We will see," Coughlin said. "If you look back, we kind of brought people back really slowly so it wouldn't be rushed. If he is ready to play, then he will play a few snaps."
*Both Coughlin and Lawrence Tynes were pleased with the results of the MRI on the kicker's thigh, which showed no significant damage. Tynes suffered a contusion when he was hit by Sean Ware after the Panthers player blocked his 44-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
"He surprised me and it looks like he is probably day-to-day," Coughlin said.
"I feel good," Tynes said. "I feel a little weak within the bruising, but overall it feels a lot better than I thought it was going to."
Tynes is uncertain when he will resume kicking, though he said he'd like to try later in the week. He is equally unsure about his availability for the Chicago game.
"I've got to kick first," he said. "I'm not going to make any predictions today. I definitely mentally feel like I could get there. I'm a pretty fast heeler. I generally have done well with things like this, so hopefully it's fine."
The Giants could possibly sign another kicker as insurance or to have available for the Bears game.
"It does at least give us the opportunity to find out what is out there," Coughlin said. "If we did work some people out, that would be fine."
Tynes said he won't be upset if the Giants bring in another kicker.
"Not at all," he said. "This is my job; no one is going to take it from me. I feel if they want to make that decision, it certainly depends on my health."
Punter Matt Dodge has been kicking off in practice and could probably do so in a game, particularly since the ball is now placed on the 35-yard line for kickoffs.
"You just try to hit it and get a touchback," Dodge said. "That's the best way to go."
It is less certain if he could kick extra points and field goals.
*Wide receiver Duke Calhoun made a couple of notable plays in practice, outracing Darnell Burks to catch a deep pass from Ryan Perrilloux in a seven-on-seven drill, then jumping to make another nice grab in a team period…Tight end Travis Beckum made an impressive leaping catch…Linebacker Michael Boley picked up where he left off in the game and intercepted an Eli Manning pass at the goal line.
*Aside from Tynes, the following players missed practice: quarterback Sage Rosenfels (illness), defensive end Dave Tollefson (back), cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot), wide receiver Sam Giguere (groin) and defensive backs Jerrard Tarant (shoulder), Woodny Turenne (calf) and Joe Burnett (hamstring).