EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Xavier McKinney is going to miss his running mate, Julian Love, but is confident the Giants have capable replacements who will enable them to withstand his departure.
McKinney and Love were the Giants' starting safeties last season and close friends since becoming teammates three years ago. But Love recently left the Giants to join the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent.
"I was in contact with J-Love, so kind of (knew) what was going on a little bit," McKinney said Monday in a Zoom news conference as the Giants began their offseason conditioning program. "Obviously, it sucked to see him go. We have a really good relationship together, not just on the field but off the field as well. Not only I lost a teammate, but I lost a brother - I didn't really lose him, but just the fact of being on the team-wise. I'm glad to see he got paid and I was happy for him. But we still talk, and we still have communication, so kind of know what it is, and our message to each other was just keep balling, keep playing and keep going and getting paid."
Love's replacement will likely be decided after a training camp competition.
Jason Pinnock started six games last season when McKinney was sidelined with a hand injury. As a rookie last season, Dane Belton tied Love for the team lead with two interceptions and made four starts. Free agent acquisition Bobby McCain started 14 games at safety last season for Washington.
"For the guys that we have here, the guys have already shown that we can step up," McKinney said. "We've got guys in the room who have been in that situation last year and were in situations where they had to come in and step up and they did that very well. They did that at a high level. I have a lot of confidence in who we have in our room now and the guys that we will have bringing in, so I'm not too stressed about that and I'm really confident in who we've got."
View photos from the Giants' offseason workout program at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
*McKinney is equally certain he will have no issues with his hand, which was injured in a bye-week accident, forcing him to miss eight games.
"Hand is good to go," McKinney said. "After tremendous amount of work and rehab that I've been doing, with the staff and with the training staff, doing outside things to be able to rehab it, it's good. I'm just really looking forward and ready to go to the start of this year.
"I'm a hundred percent for sure. As far as being a hindrance, it wasn't really hindering at all to me. Obviously, I mean, you guys saw the games that I played with the cast. I was still able to make a huge impact on the games, and I think if you turn on that film, you see that. I didn't see any hindrance. I don't know if maybe y'all did (laughs) but I definitely didn't. I still played at a high level."
"Coach Brian Daboll confirmed running back Saquon Barkley and defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence did not attend the first day of voluntary workouts. Barkley is not permitted in the Giants' facility because he has not signed his franchise tender and thus does not have a contract. Lawrence's fifth-year option was picked up in 2022 but he is reportedly seeking a long-term deal.
The first mandatory event for veteran players is a June minicamp.
"First of all, we've had a great turnout," Daboll said. "We've had a few meetings here today. I think the guys that are here are excited to be back. We got off to a good start. Phase one is really about the physical part of it, getting quicker, faster, stronger and then there's a few little meetings here or there based on scheme. I've talked to both of those players, both Saquon and Dex and I'll leave those conversations, as I always do, private.
"They (the workouts) are voluntary. It's April 17. We've got a long way to go here so we'll just take it day-by-day."
*On-site field work is prohibited during the first two weeks of the offseason program. Players engage in strength and conditioning, attend meetings and rehab is available for players who need it.
"All we try to do is improve in each area that we can while the players are here, whether that be in the strength and development side of it, whether that's system side of it," Daboll said. "That's why they are voluntary. Players get to choose if they want to be here, if they don't want to be here and then whoever is here, we are going to work as hard as we can to help improve in those areas.
"The guys just being around one another, getting to know (each other). We have a number of new free agents here in the building. So, it was good this morning to see those guys start to interact with some of our players we had last year. There's a lot of people that we had last year that are moving on from different teams, whether that be coach or players. It's just introductory stages here of really the 2023 season. Got a lot of months and a lot of practices and things like that to go."
*Quarterback Daniel Jones is excited to work with tight end Darren Waller, who was acquired for a third-round draft choice in a trade with Las Vegas. Waller was a Pro Bowler in 2020, when he caught 107 passes for the Raiders.
"I think he's certainly a big piece of it and he brings a lot of that ability," Jones said. "He adds something for the defense to worry about with his skill set and his athleticism and how he can get open and get behind the defense. I think it would be a big part of what we're doing going forward. It's only the first day of phase one, so there's a lot of work to do, and we have a lot to get done before we play a game, so we are focused on what we are doing right now."
View photos of the Giants arriving for the start of the offseason workout program.