Good morning, New York Giants fans. Here are your news and notes for this Saturday morning.
"These other guys have played the game, so they know what it’s like," the Giants’ two-time Pro Bowl defensive end said Friday. "To hear them come out and say some of the things they said is very, very disappointing and makes me question how real and how authentic they are because they know better than to come out and say some of the things they’ve said."
"If I see whoever it is that comes out and says these things, I have to let them know that I think that’s just ridiculous," said Umenyiora, who added he hasn’t talked to Strahan or Pierce. "Because all these guys who are saying these things went through the same things we’re going through. It’s crazy to me."
Give Osi some credit here. He may have his issues with management, but he has the backs of his teammates. He's not Santonio Holmes.
"I feel good. I practiced today. I’m pretty optimistic about it," he said. "Let’s just say I’ve passed every necessary test I’ve had thus far or else they wouldn’t let me on the practice field."
Manning's command of the offense has always been a source of immeasurable comfort to coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
"Eli does a great job of identifying what the defense is doing," Devin Thomas said. "Every game he knows exactly the blitzing schemes and who to pick up to help the O-Line out, and he does a great job of relaying that to us so we know whether we have a 'hot' look or just to stay on our routes, so there's no doubt about how smart Eli is. He's a very film-oriented guy, and it shows in his decision-making."
Manning has had to help nurture and develop the corps of young receivers -- from Steve Smith to Hakeem Nicks, to Mario Manningham to Victor Cruz -- following the departure of Plaxico Burress.
"Eli's very cerebral," Cruz said. "He understands coverages very well. We were just in there watching film, and he understands what he sees, and he understands how to counter everything he sees so . . . he spends a lot of time studying the opponent, and he's a very smart, cerebral quarterback, definitely."
The most interesting part of the this post? Cruz said that Manning generally gets two plays from offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, and that he audibles at the line of scrimmage as much as 40 percent of the time.
Coach Tom Coughlin has famously little patience for what he likes to call "careless disregard of the football," and Cruz admitted yesterday the Giants coach has had him in his sights this week.
"He talked to me about it on Monday," Cruz said as the Giants prepared to host the Bills tomorrow. "I'm putting a lot of it on myself. I concentrated this week on keeping it high and tight when I'm in traffic. Ball security was a big focus for me."
That will have to be the case from here on out for Eli Manning and the Giants to continue to trust Cruz with the slot-receiver duties.
"I'm making a conscious effort to keep the ball close to my body," he said. "It's all mental. You've got to tell yourself on every catch: 'Put it away, put it away, put it away.' "
The Giants are willing to live with Cruz's occasional sloppiness because his explosiveness continues to be thrilling to watch. Few receivers in team history have emerged as furiously as Cruz, who has 17 catches for 369 yards (123 yards per game) and three TDs in his first three games of extensive use in the NFL.
"He makes a lot of big plays, and he's understanding the offense and what he needs to do," Manning said this week. "He's still a young player. There's still room to grow."
Two key congressman emerged from an hour-long meeting with the NFL and players union and announced a deal to begin blood-testing players for human growth hormone. Minutes later, union officials would commit only to testing when a fair and safe system is in place -- what they've been saying all along.
After Friday's high-profile mix of sports and politics, HGH testing in pro football didn't seem closer to reality.
"We're not guaranteeing any outcomes except there was an agreement to begin testing immediately," Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told reporters after the meeting. "The other aspects of what you do with the tests will be resolved over the next many weeks, and we've agreed on a bipartisan basis to have the committee play a role if necessary" to bring the sides together again.
One year ago this weekend, the NFL changed the way it disciplined players. Forever. No longer would brutal helmet-to-helmet hits get a $7,500 wrist-slap. Three big hits in Week 6 drew a combined $175,000 in fines, and new points of emphases set up a new way of hitting by angry defenders. The defenders are still angry, but there's been progress in decreasing helmet-to-helmet hits and the hits on defenseless ballcarriers.
"As we look at the one-year anniversary,'' said NFL vice president Ray Anderson on Thursday, "we can say it's a pretty happy anniversary. As we have studied it over the past year, there is no question in our minds that players have adjusted their target areas. There is no question they are aiming lower. I think we have a safer game than we had a year ago.''
"It's crazy,'' said Carolina linebacker Jon Beason, now on IR with an Achilles injury. "But they knew how to get our attention. They have. There's still so much gray area to it -- like if I aim low, and the receiver ducks down, and I hit him in the helmet, I can still get fined. I'm aiming lower, but I'm still the one in trouble. But the officials have told us to aim lower, and we know it's their way or the highway.''