Optimism -- A disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome. [From Dictionary.com]
Around the New York Giants the day after the end of the season is called "Baggy Day." There is a good reason for that as players are hustling to pack up their belongings, placed mostly in large black plastic trash bags, to head off to wherever they are going now that the season is over.
Some Giants were hurrying to head home. Others were prepping for family vacations. Some were getting set to head to wherever they will be training during the off-season. Some were heading for quick breaks before they head back to East Rutherford to begin individual work for the 2015 season.
There were hugs, hand shakes and goodbyes with many players not knowing if they would be back with the Giants in 2015. One thing that permeated the room, however, was optimism. Among the players who know they will be back, or at least are as sure as an NFL player can be that he will be back next season, the overwhelming vibe in the Giants' Quest Diagnostics Training Center was excitement about the future.
Strange for a team that just finished a 6-10 season, has had two straight losing years and has not reached the playoffs since winning the 2011 Super Bowl? Maybe, but the definite sense among players in the locker room was that, as coach Tom Coughlin pointed out Sunday evening, the Giants are pointed in the right direction.
Placekicker Josh Brown:
"I'm optimistic about the offensive threat that we're going to have when Vic's out there, Odell's out there, Rueben Randle who obviously has been coming on hot the last couple of weeks. I'm excited. I'm absolutely excited.
"You have a phenomenal quarterback who can put the ball where he wants to and I think as long as you have a good quarterback and a good coach you can win championships."
Tight end Larry Donnell:
"What's exciting to me right now is what are they [defenses] gonna do next year? You got Victor Cruz, you got Odell, you got Rueben. It's gonna be exciting."
Punter Steve Weatherford:
"You look at our impact players with the exception of Eli Manning everybody's very young and very talented. Odell Beckham, Andre Williams, Preston Parker, Rueben Randle. These guys are in their second or first year in the NFL.
"I've never seen Rueben play as well as he's played the last few games. I think they're very, very encouraged by that, I'm encouraged by that. A lot of talent on this team. I think everybody's going to continue to grow."
Quarterback Eli Manning:
"Offensively, we made great strides from the beginning of the year where a lot of things were different. The timing from me and the receivers was off. We struggled and yesterday and the last few weeks we were doing some really good things - making big plays and moving the ball. Next year and being in the same offense... if we can come back and start where we are right now and continue to make progress, I think we're just kind of scratching the surface of where we can get to."
Linebacker Jameel McClain noted that in the beginning "professionalism probably wasn't at the top of everybody's priority" when it came to the young players. That has changed, however, per McClain:"As the season went on you've seen professionalism. You've seen rookies that were in the cold tub every day, you've seen rookies that understood, you've seen veterans that did stuff that they didn't do.
"The growth of this team is amazing and I'm excited to see how next year starts. Not even next year I'm excited to see the off-season, I'm excIted to see OTAs, I'm excited to see 100 percent participation, I'm excited to see all of these people here because they know that the growth is so good that the top is the only thing you can reach."
Only time will tell, of course, but it does feel like the Giants are in a better place right now than they were a year ago at this time.