The pads don't come on until the weekend, but shirts are required for all players at the start of training camp.
If you've seen any videos of the Giants' skill players working out this offseason, you know that could be an adjustment. Quarterback Eli Manning joked it might take a few weeks for them to acclimate to the friction, but Sterling Shepard isn't worried.
"Eli was blowing that up a bit," the wide receiver said with a smile Thursday afternoon before the team's first practice.
Fellow wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was part of the Giants' contingent on the West Coast, and everyone tuned in to see how the three-time Pro Bowler looked coming back from a season-ending ankle injury. According to Shepard, Beckham looks "so much more explosive" following a year in which he was limited to just four games.
"I think he's just really excited to be back on the field," Shepard said. "I think his focus is just getting the plays down so he's able to play fast. I mean, honestly, when I was watching him he's just so much more explosive to me and that's me watching him before he got hurt and after. So much more explosive, and he's just hungry and you can just see that in his game and the way that he trains. He's always trained super hard, but training with him this last time was a different animal out there."
In those viral videos, you also saw something besides freakish athletic feats. You saw team-building.
Culture has been a major theme for the Giants since Dave Gettleman took over as general manager. New head coach Pat Shurmur has also said he wants the players to understand how important it is to have relationships. Whether it's working out together in California or pushing tables together to dine in the team cafeteria, the message has trickled down to the players, both new and returning members.
"It's just trying to build the team camaraderie a little bit," Shepard said. "We were all offensive guys pretty much. We had like two DBs out there, DD [Donte Deayon] and Eli [Apple], but other than that it was all offensive guys, so we were just in the playbook constantly and just trying to build that connection."
Shepard, who last season led the team with 731 yards receiving despite missing five games himself, said the biggest difference with Shurmur's offense is all the moving parts. He isn't limited to just being a slot receiver, a label he has tried to shed going back to his days at Oklahoma.
"I've carried that chip for a long time now," said Shepard, who married over the offseason and is expecting a child. "In college they said I was just a slot receiver and I proved I could play outside. I feel like I can do the same thing this year. I mean, people are looking at me as mostly a slot guy – which I am – but it's 'receiver' at the end of the day. You have to know how to get open, no matter where you are on the field, so I'm looking forward to the challenge and we'll see how it goes."
With Beckham sidelined this spring as he continued the rehab process, Shepard got extensive work on the outside. It was one the main points of emphasis in his training, which he carried over to California with his teammates.
On top of that, Shepard is entering an important third season, which Manning thinks is "always a big year for receivers." Along with 2017 All-Rookie tight end Evan Engram, Shurmur has versatile players to make the offense unpredictable.
"If you stay in the same personnel every time, then the defense only has to prepare for that one personnel," Shepard said. "If you've got guys moving around, it definitely is a challenge for the defense, and that's what you see in this offense, a lot of moving parts, like I've said, and a lot of different personnel."