When Eli Manning worked out with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks at Duke University in the spring, he figured that the former would be a no-show at New York Giants organized team activities due to long-term contract negotiations that are expected to be hammered out by July's training camp.
Nicks is another story. His truancy has been a mystery and that's left Manning a little annoyed at not having his top two wide receivers together during the early portions of preparations for the 2013 NFL season. Manning stated on Thursday he was hoping that the Duke sessions would end up as "a little starter course to the spring" and not a substitute to the Giants' on-field drills.
Rather than making the heart grow fonder, the absence of Cruz and Nicks is testing the patience of the Giants quarterback.
"This is the stuff where you're getting to go against cornerbacks," Manning said. "You get to work your technique. You get to practice those things we're gonna do in the season."
While Cruz's contract talks drag on, Nicks is entering the final year of his deal, which despite his agent's denials one can put two and two together to hypothetically conclude that Nicks wants a longterm deal of his own. Manning won't have Cruz for this month's mini-camp, but those workouts are mandatory and head coach Tom Coughlin, himself miffed, expects Nicks to be there.
Meanwhile, Manning continues to press on and work with Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan.
"I have to worry about the guys that are here," Manning said. "That's all I can do. I've got to worry about each practice and trying to get better, making sure I know what I'm doing, working on the things that I need to improve on and then talking over with the guys who are out there on the field about each play, watching film with them, making sure we're on the same page and we have a chance to go out there and win the practices."
If Nicks fails to show up at minicamp, the Giants, reports the New York Daily News, can fine him up to $66,150 - $11,025 for the first missed day, $22,050 for the second and $33,075 for the third. Coughlin put Cruz in a different category than Nicks, who can expect a clear-the-air meeting with his head coach.
"That might happen, yeah, I would think," Coughlin said.
Murphy and Randle have since taken advantage of increased reps. The former brings an added element of speed that will help the Giants' vertical offense and Manning is expecting big strides from Randle, Big Blue's second-round pick in 2012.
"A lot of times that second year you have a better feel for what's going on, what his assignments are and the ins and outs of the offense," Manning said. "He's confident out there. He's got a great skill set. I think he's had a great spring. I think he's done a lot of good things, made a lot of plays for us and I think he can be a great play-maker for us this year."
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