EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tuesday was, in a way, a new beginning for the New York Giants. Ben McAdoo has been the team's head coach since mid-January, and he has had players in the offseason program for more than two weeks now. Tuesday, though, was the first time the Giants had gotten out of the weight and meeting rooms and actually onto the field.
Players were in shorts and t-shirts and practice, due to early-morning rain, was held indoors. There was no contact, no offense vs. defense, no "real" football. Just some position drills and some walk-through sort of playbook installation.
Still, there was a palpable sense of optimism in the air.
McAdoo felt it:
"The building’s been buzzing here for a few weeks," he said. "The guys are excited to get back and get going. I think you felt that a little bit out here today. It was a good first day."
Tight end Larry Donnell, back with the Giants after missing the second half of last season with a serious neck injury, felt it:
"I’m feeling great, wonderful. It’s been too many days. It just feels awesome to be back on this grass running around again, being able to play the game that I love."
Donnell, incidentally, wasn't exactly clear about the extent of his neck injury. Fiurst, he said he broke a bone, then he said "not my neck" when asked if it was a broken neck, then he said "to a certain extent" he had broken a bone in his neck and he also said it was just "little minor stuff" that knocked him out of action.
Whatever, he's glad to be back.
Odell Beckham Jr. felt it. He was practically bouncing off the walls while talking to reporters, rubbing his face and his VERY BLOND hair, and smiling constantly while he talked about his expectations for the upcoming season.
"There's a lot of banners that aren't in here that need to be in here," Beckham said. "I only care about winning.
"I'm just anxious. It was a long off-season. You feel like you're just sitting there and waiting around. There's so much time to think. It was hard for me. One of my off-seasons at LSU, I had a nice year and wanted to come back and do even more. I was in California training three times a day. But I had to take a step back. The season is a very long one and I've learned that the hard way. So just taking care of your body and doing the little things is important. This is going to be one for the books."
Victor Cruz felt it. The Giants only allowed Cruz to stretch with teammates, not to run routes, but McAdoo said Cruz "looks good."
"He’s moving around. He’s doing a lot of things. He’s certainly ready to go if we needed him to go today, but he’s going to go when we deem him ready to go," McAdoo said. "Victor has come a long way and we’re going to take small steps with him. It’s the third week of the offseason program. We don’t want to rush into anything there. We want to take our time and when he’s ready to go, we’ll put him back out there when we deem him ready to go."
For his part, Cruz said "it felt good to be out here" and that he "absolutely" felt like he could return to his pre-injury level of play.
"I’m not in the business to go out there and be half of myself or half of what I was. I want to go out there and be ready to go 100 percent and be the same player that I once was. That’s the goal," Cruz said.
"I definitely believe in my abilities and believe in my talent level and believe that if I’m healthy and I’m out there alongside Odell and Eli and the rest of that offense that I can compete at that high level."
Jason Pierre-Paul felt it.
"I think everyone was moving quickly and things were at a fast pace. We had some resting periods, but it was more of a ‘quick-and-go right now’ pace. That’s very important. We didn’t have that break that we used to have and we felt pretty good after we left the field," Pierre-Paul said.
JPP also feels good about his own situation.
There was music blaring from the speakers in the practice bubble for roughly the first 30-40 minutes of the workout. Players moved quickly from drill to drill.
There was little to learn in terms of alignments or who was able to do what. It appeared that all players returning from injuries, with the exception of Cruz, did some form of on-field work.
There were a few drills that looked different than what we had seen in the past, and definitely a quick pace to the practice.
"Really just got out here and knocked the rust off a little bit, getting the guys orientated to the way we’re gonna go about the business. We’ll build on it each day, we’ll do a little bit more tomorrow, a little bit more on Thursday and off we go." McAdoo said.