A: Welcome to Training Camp guys. All’s quiet. We’re happy to be back here at Albany. It’s always good to us here. I think our players and our team, our coaches… everybody is excited about being here. We’re looking forward to all the big challenges we have this season. Obviously there have been some changes. But I think they’re good changes. Our team, like all teams, has to gel and get some continuity with each other. We have a good nucleus of players coming back. We feel good about where we’re at. It’s all quiet right now.
Q: It doesn’t seem like there’s a Super Bowl hangover. Yesterday Antrel made it clear that last year is last year. And this year is a new season. Does it make you happy to know that these guys have a whole new mindset?
A: Well I think we have some veteran players on this team that understand that last year is last year. So it’s time to move on. We moved on from that. There are huge challenges for us this season. There are challenges every season and we’re looking forward to it.
Q: 14 practices left here. How much of an assessment and of an evaluation can you make in that short time here.
A: Well, everybody’s in the same boat. Players have to make their mark pretty quickly in the preseason games and practice. Everybody is heading into the same boat. We’ll have to evaluate like everybody else has to do it.
Q: How do you feel about the younger tight ends? Ryan Purvis got some work with the second team yesterday. How do you feel about any of those players standing out?
A: We have some big guys. Athletes. Somebody is just going to have to step out of the shadows. Bear Pascoe has been around for a long time. He can do a lot of things for us. Martellus Bennett is a new guy on the block. He has some things he can prove. He wants to prove to us. All the young kids. We have some big athletic tight ends that can do the job.
Q: Jerry, when you come to camp, is your job done or are you still looking?
A: Is my job done?
Q: How much more work do you have to do to get this team ready?
A: Your team changes almost every day. With injuries and different things that can happen. There are always trade possibilities. You never know when somebody is going to come ask you for a trade. Sometimes they can make it so good. There’s a possibility for trades. So your team can change pretty quickly in this business. As the season starts, your team changes every week almost. I think our job is never done. I think you’re working every day and trying to improve your team. We’re always looking at the waiver wire and different players are out on the street right now to see if we can improve our team in any way and look to improve the backend of the roster.
Q: What are your expectations for Prince?
A: I expect Prince to play like a first round draft pick. That’s pretty cut and dry for me.
Q: You’ve said it’s been quiet a number of times. That’s what you guys prefer, business as usual…
A: Quiet is okay. But it doesn’t bother me to have a little chatter going into training camp. I actually kind of like it a little bit when there’s a little bit of chatter. I like that a little bit. It keeps everybody on edge a little bit. Actually I’ve got a little bit of nervous energy because it’s too quiet. But I’m sure something will pop up sooner or later.
Q: You say that Prince should play like a first round pick. What do you mean by that? Filling the cornerback role?
A: Yeah. He should challenge for a starting job and play like a first round draft pick. When you pick a guy that high, in the first round, you expect him to play and play well and be a strong contributor to your team.
Q: One of the words that players on your team, and others have talked about is, "dynasty."
A: Who said that?
Q: Justin has said that. Michael Vick has said that.
Q: What are your thoughts on that word?
A: Well, I just think that’s a nice word for you guys to play around, one you could stretch a lot of different ways. What is a dynasty? What constitutes? I’m not even sure what that means. I think the teams are so evenly matched these days that it’s hard for a team to quote ‘be a dynasty.’ It’s good to be able to talk about the d-word, but you gotta get out there and play. I’m really not sure what the dynasty thing even means.
Q: What does it mean for the defense to get JPP, Tuck and Osi on the field together, all healthy?
A: Well, those guys are pretty good. It takes more than that. It takes the entire unit to play well. We have some guys up front who can get after the quarterback, and I think that helps you out on the second level, and on the back end of the defense. If we can get those guys in there at the same time, it’s a pretty good route. Along with some other guys as well, who are pretty good players.
Q: After the Super Bowl in 2007, the team you brought back in 2008, you thought had more talent.
A: The team that I thought was our best team on paper was the team that went 8-8. On paper, that was our best team and we ended up 8-8. So, you never know. You have to get out there and play. You have to manufacture some wins, and injuries always come into play. So, you never know until you get out there. Paper is paper. That’s not how you play the game.
Q: Do you like what this roster looks like now? Do you think this is a better roster than you had last year?
A: Well, I think it’s a good roster. I think it’s a really good roster. It remains to be seen as to how good we can be. I think we can be strong, and we can be good again. But you have to do it, you can’t talk about it, you have to go out there and do it. That’s what’s important to us, is to go out there and prove that we are a good football team, that we’ve got a challenge and have a chance to win a lot of games this season. Hopefully, we can qualify for the tournament. Then, if you get in the tournament, like always, anything can happen.
Q: Can you tell us anything about the competition at linebacker?
A: Well, it’s a good group. I think it’s a pretty deep group of linebackers. There’s going to be a lot of competition at that position. Some of the young guys that are coming in and we’ve got veterans. We have Kiwanuka there, who is a SAM linebacker, Michael Boley is there, and you’ve got Chase Blackburn, who is in there. There’s competition at every position, so I like that group of young guys. Our young hungry players like Jacquian, who did some nice things for us. We’ve got Herzlich coming back; Keith Rivers is the new guy on the block, who we think is a really good player. So, there’s a lot of depth. Obviously, those guys that play linebacker have to play a lot on special teams, so right now I think we have a pretty good group.
Q: What about the fourth guy in the NASCAR package last year, who do you see stepping in there.
A: Kiwanuka always goes down and plays some end as well, so don’t forget about him as a fourth defensive end. We have Justin Trattou, we have Adrian Tracy. Some of those young guys we expect to step out of the shadows and challenge for that fourth spot as well.
Q: Is Hakeem progressing the way you wanted him to?
A: Well, Hakeem is on schedule, as far as I know from our trainer, Ronnie Barnes. That’s another guy that we never talk about that much, Ronnie Barnes, our trainer, and his staff. They do a tremendous job, they’re a really big part of what we do. They really don’t get a lot of publicity. They’re kind of the unsung heroes for us. They get our guys back out there. We had a ton of injuries last year and they stepped up to the challenge and got our guys back. In the latter part of the season, we got healthy and strong again. That has a lot to do with Ronnie Barnes and his staff. So I’d like to give him kudos for what they do for us.
Q: One guy that has been a constant for this team for the past 5, 6, 7 years has been Eli. If he ever went down for any period of time, do you guys have a backup?
A: Well, you know, David Carr is our backup. And I think Dave is very capable of stepping in and winning some games for us. I don’t like to talk about injuries to Eli Manning. But we do have confidence that David Carr can step in and win some games for us if need be.
Q: That whole notion of a Super Bowl hangover, when did the celebration stop in your mind?
A: It stopped after we got back home from Indianapolis. It stopped for me because we had to get right into our offseason mode of free agency and the draft preparation and the combine. It stopped immediately for me. But the parade was nice. Then we went to the White House. All those things were nice. It comes with winning the Super Bowl. But for me and our staff, we started working right away. So, it ended pretty quickly for us.
Q: Does it make it easier or harder for you to turn ……?
A: It’s always easy. Every year is a new year. It’s pretty easy to turn the page. That’s history, it’s in the books. It’s time to look to the future and see what we can do this season and we’re very excited about the challenges of having the opportunity to repeat. That’s a good problem to have.
Q: You talked about Prince, but with him coming back as well as Terrell, would you say the secondary will be revived in a way, this year?
A: I hope so. You have two quality players coming back at corner, so those guys should absolutely help us. We lost Aaron Ross, but we have Prince coming back. Corey and Terrell Thomas, those guys are star-caliber corners. You’ve got to have a bunch of corners in this league to get through the season. And we were able to survive last year, because we did have enough, because we had a bunch of corners go down early in the season. But that’s an important position to have.
Q: Jerry, Deon Grant said recently that he kind of expected to be back. Is that something you foresee?
A: We always keep the book open on everything and keep all of our options open. You never know what will happen, but we have some young safeties we want to take a look at. Deon is still out there and he did a really nice job for us last year, so we’ll keep those options open.
Q: Does the same hold true for Kareem?
A: All of our options are open, yes, all of our options are open. You never know, you can get a run of injuries at a certain position, then all of a sudden you’re scrambling trying to find some guys who played and can come in and help you right away.
Q: With all the free agency and everything, are you a little surprised at all at the continuity you were able to achieve from last year to this year, in terms of your starting group?
A: Like you said, we have a group of nice guys coming back and you’re always going to have that core group of guys and there are always going to be some changes. Free agency means guys are free to go. You anticipate that you are going to have some guys that leave, but we have a really nice core of players coming back, who have played in a couple of Super Bowls. We have some guys that obviously played last year, so it’s a good group, a veteran group. We do have some young players, but we have some young veterans, who have played a lot for us so, I like this group.
Q: As a general manager is that a goal? Is that a long term goal ……?
A: It’s great to have that, but your team can change quickly. You can have a bunch of young guys all of a sudden, but you really like to have some young veterans. Some veterans and some young veterans in a nice, group of young guys that come in to help you. You want a combination of everything.
Q: How good is it to know that Eli has answered a lot of the questions that were being asked about him at this time last year?
A: Well, I think you guys were asking that question. For us, personally, and myself, we think Eli’s been a tremendous quarterback for a long time. Again, it’s a nice thing for media guys to talk about. In our eyes, Eli’s been a really good player for a long time. It’s very comforting to have him. Last year we said he was an ascending player, and I still believe that this year. He hasn’t leveled off at all. He can still improve, and he wants to improve. That’s the thing about him that we love.
Q: I know you guys say all the time that nothing affects him, and he doesn’t hear the chatter and stuff like that. After last season and everything he did to get you guys to the Super Bowl, did you see a guy that was a little relaxed, with some weight off his shoulders at all?
A: Well, he had already won a Super Bowl. The guy’s played at a high level in college, and he’s a ‘Manning." He has that name. He’s used to the pressure. I really don’t think those things bother him. He’s pretty cool under pressure, if you want to frame it like that. He’s always the same, we like that about him.
Q: This time last year you said he needed to self-correct. You were pretty…not harsh, but you laid it on the line with him didn’t you?
A: Well, I didn’t lay it on the line, and it wasn’t Eli coming into my office, and let me call you on the carpet. It wasn’t like that at all. We would just talk. We would talk in business. I was saying that he’s one of those guys who can self-correct. He put the ball in harm’s way too many times. He realized that. Sometimes the sack is a good play, but those are the kinds of things we talked about. He cleaned those up some. He still can clean up some other things that happened last year. Eli is a very smart player. He understands the big picture. That’s why we like Eli, he understands the big picture.
Q: There’s been a lot of promoting this offseason, with SNL and all that, but he really made a point of showing these other guys that he really wants to work.
A: Offseason is offseason. When the season comes we get out here to training camp, and OTA’s. He’s all business, nobody works harder than him. He comes early and he stays late. He sets the standard for what we do. He’s probably our number one worker.
Q: Victor Cruz also had a pretty good offseason, he’s going to be a restricted free agent. Do you think you guys are getting closer towards getting that done before the season?
A: It could happen. All those options are open, but right now we’re just focused, Victor is just focused on being a good football player again. The contract situation will take care of itself.
Q: It seems like there’s such a fine line between a playoff team and a non-playoff team. Do you go into the season thinking, ‘I think we’re a playoff team,’ or do you say ‘I think we’re a Super Bowl contender.’ How do you approach that?
A: I go into the season thinking we’re a good football team. The thing you have to have: good coaches, you have some good players, and you have to have some luck. It’s a combination of three things. You get a chance to go in the tournament. The NFC East is always a tough (division) to come out of. We come out of that (division), you’re battle-tested. We have a tough schedule too. I like a tough schedule because I think it helps you be battle-tested down the stretch. I go into the season just hoping for the best and looking at your team compared to everybody else’s team and we have as good a chance as anybody else, I think.
Q: How much of what happened at the end of last year was just a validation of all of your philosophies and everything you had put in place, with how you wanted to structure the team? Because early on, a lot of criticism about not going after high-profile free agents and things like that, letting a couple of guys go. Obviously, it all paid off.
A: We just try to make good football decisions for the New York Giants. If it’s a splashy move, that’s great. But if you sign a center and a punter, you know, that’s what you need to do to make your team a better football team. That’s what we do as well. It’s kind of what we did last year, and we felt very good about the team. Like I said, as a team, the previous season, we won 10 games. We were 10-6. It wasn’t like they didn’t win a lot of games. We won 10 games, but we just didn’t qualify for the tournament. So there is a fine line between being in the playoffs or not being in the playoffs. The ball bounces one way or another, and you’re in or out. Or some things can happen, like, when we had the Philadelphia game, and then Green Bay gets in. If we win that game, I think Green Bay was out of the tournament. So things like that will happen, you’ve got to have a little bit of luck, and you’ve got to have coaches, and you’ve got to have players. If you have those three things, you definitely have a chance.
Q: But just a validation of your philosophy though?
A: Well, I’m not trying to validate anything. I’m just trying to make the Giants the best football team that we can be. It’s all about team for us, we’re all a unit and that’s what’s important. It’s not about validating myself or anything we just try to do what’s best for the Giants.
Q: You’re noted for your draft picks. Is there somebody this year that you think everybody should keep an eye on?
A: Well, you never know. David Wilson obviously is our first-round pick and we think that he’s going to give our run game some pop with his explosiveness, so we’re hopeful that he can do that. Rueben Randle, we even talked about him in the first round, we think that he could be a tremendous asset to us in the receiving corps. All the way down the line, there’s plenty of young kids that step out of the shadow. Last year, the front end of the draft really didn’t play, Prince and Marvin Austin, they really didn’t play because of injuries. The back end of the draft led us in special teams, so those are things that go unnoticed that you have to get, but our personnel staff do a really nice job, and again we just try to pick the players who best fit the New York Giants and help us win championships.
Q: Did you see a sharp decline in the letters and angry phone calls this offseason?
A: We still get a few, but that’s ok.
Q: You mentioned Prince playing as the first-round pick, what does that mean, playing as the first-round pick?
A: He’s got to get in the mix and see where he fits in, but obviously when you pick a guy in the first round you expect him to come in and contribute. Your first three picks, you want those guys to come in and contribute in a significant way, especially your first couple of picks, you might even get a start out of them somewhere. So we expect David Wilson to get in there and get up to speed. He needs to take care of the ball and pass protect. We know he can run, he can put the ball in his hands and be explosive, he can catch the ball, but young running backs they have to take care of the ball, don’t put it on the ground, and they have to pass protect. Those are the things he has to do to really get going here, but he’s natural with the ball in his hands. We’re not worried about him as a runner. The other little things that he has to get right to play in this league he has to get up to speed with.
Q: Tom got a new contract after last year, did you?
A: We don’t talk about my contract. We’re not talking about that.