EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J – Last month, the Giants brought back a member of their Super Bowl XLVI championship team when they signed wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
This week, they reached deeper into their past when they signed defensive tackle Barry Cofield, who played on the Giants team that won Super Bowl XLII. Like Nicks, Cofield did not play a down in the 2015 season before joining his old team and is eager to line up and help out. The Giants host the undefeated Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
"It feels great (to be back)," Cofield said today, after his first practice. "It's very nostalgic, and then you get to work and you feel good about that as well. So many familiar faces in the staff, front office, around the building, cafeteria, such a solid organization where you get that kind of consistency is very comforting."
In his first eight NFL seasons, Cofield missed just one of his team's 135 regular-season and postseason games. So starting his season in December is very unusual.
"It's definitely a position I've never been in, but it's exciting," Cofield said. "It's exciting to come in with fresh legs. Even though it's year 10 for me, I feel like a rookie out there. I'm trying to pick up the playbook. The D-line room has been great, and they welcomed me with open arms. They've helped me out there, helped me get lined up, and helped me in the classroom. It's a great group, and I'm excited to help them."
Cofield actually made the first move in this reunion, reaching out to the Giants when they suffered losses to their defensive front, notably the season-ending torn pectoral muscle on Nov. 8 by Johnathan Hankins. Cofield impressed during a tryout, but wasn't signed until Markus Kuhn injured his knee in Miami on Monday night. The Giants yesterday released safety Brandon Meriweather to create space on their roster.
"He brings a veteran presence, he brings a guy that's very aware of the way in which we play here with the Giants," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's a guy that's in excellent condition, and I think he's really going to help us down the stretch here."
"It was great to see him, brought back old memories," said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who held the same position in 2007-08, Cofield's second and third Giants seasons. "He's obviously rusty, got to knock the rust off. And the one thing about coming in this time of the season is when do you do this? There's no preseason games. It's not like we line up in pads and tackle, so it'll be a little bit different. But it is good to have him. It's great to have the veteran leadership."
Cofield's first task is to re-learn Spagnuolo's defense.
"He's had the rush course, obviously, on what's going on," Coughlin said. "For a guy as smart as he is, he'll pick this up."
"A lot of the base stuff is very similar, especially the stuff that they're going to have me doing," said Cofield, the Giants' fourth-round draft choice in 2006. "They're not going to throw me completely in the fire, but I'm sure I will get burned a little bit. It has to be trial by fire, but they're going to limit the snaps that I take. A lot of the stuff that I'm doing is stuff that's very familiar and a lot of it is just football; (the) 4-3 defense, where I'm most comfortable, and I'm very excited about the opportunity."
"I don't know where the wording is, and the verbiage is right now, because it's probably changed more than I even realize," Spagnuolo said. "But look it, playing defensive tackle, there's a lot of common denominators - a double-team is a double-team, and a reach block is a reach block. So, hopefully, that will all come back to him real quick, because it's been a while since he's played."
Cofield's last live action was on Dec. 28, 2014, when he completed his four-year stint with the Washington Redskins in a game against Dallas. But he missed eight games last season with a high ankle sprain, the first extended absence of his career. In March, he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip.
"Hip and groin, it was all connected," Cofield said. "I had a long stretch of groin and sports hernia-type injuries that were all because of the hip. The labrum in the hip was damaged, and once we figured out that was the issue and corrected it, ever since then, I've been on the up and up and I feel great.
"I've been rehabbing it, strengthening it for so long now and I feel great. I could have been back on the field for somebody a few weeks ago, just this opportunity, the perfect opportunity popped up. I worked out for the team a couple weeks ago, and had a great workout and a great physical. The chips just fell this week; they chose to bring me in, so I'm ready."
Cofield has the advantage of being fresh and well-rested, while many of his opponents are dealing with the effects of the grueling NFL season.
"I feel great," he said. "Everybody, once they hit year eight or nine, they should take a year off. It's been almost a calendar year since I hit anybody, and it definitely shows in the way that I feel. I'm excited about that. I feel like it was a fountain of youth, and I feel like I can play a few more years. That's my goal."
Right now, the Giants just want him to contribute on Sunday.
• Rookie defensive end Owa Odighizuwa returned to practice today. He is on injured reserve/designated for return, where he was placed on Nov. 5 with a hamstring injury. This was the first day Odighizuwa was eligible to return to practice. He can be added to the roster on Dec. 31, which would make him available for the regular-season finale vs. Philadelphia on Jan. 3.
• Two players were added to the Giants' injury report today: wide receiver Dwayne Harris (shoulder), who did not practice, and linebacker J.T. Thomas (ankle), who was limited.
Linebacker Devon Kennard (foot/hamstring), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (knee) and defensive end George Selvie (concussion) also sat out. Tackle Ereck Flowers (ankle) was limited.
• Statistical leftovers from the Giants 31-24 victory in Miami on Monday night:
• The victory in Miami was the 300th regular-season road triumph in Giants history. They are 300-302-17.
• This season, the Giants are 3-4 when they score on their first possession – 3-1 when they kick a field goal, and 0-3 when they score a touchdown.
• In Miami, the Giants had more than 30 rushing attempts for the third time this season. They are 3-0 in those games. Their time of possession exceeded 30 minutes for the fifth time. They are 5-0 when that happens.
• Eli Manning's Giants-record 87.1 completion percentage was the fifth time in his career he completed at least 77 percent of his passes in a game. All five of those games were on the road. Manning's highest completion rate in a home game was 76 percent vs. Seattle on Oct. 5, 2008.
• Manning leads the NFL with six touchdown passes of 50 or more yards. Five of them were thrown to Odell Beckham Jr., and the sixth went to Rashad Jennings.
• Since the start of the 2014 season, Beckham has an NFL-high seven touchdown receptions of 50 or more yards. Washington's DeSean Jackson is second with six.
Photos of DT Barry Cofield's career with the Giants