The opportunity for the New York Giants to erase memories of last season’s debacle began Thursday as the full team held their first practice of the summer. Before practice, co-owner John Mara and head coach Pat Shurmur spoke to the media.
As everyone involved with this team knows, last year was as bad as it could be. When asked about if he had gotten over it, Mara made it quite clear.
“I haven’t gotten over last season quite yet,” Mara said. “You know, I have to be honest about it. I’m not going to forget about last season anytime soon.”
It’s understandable, coming off a season where some said the Giants was a possible Super Bowl team. Mara might not have been sold on that notion but he wasn’t prepared for the final result.
“I did not see it coming.” Mara said. “I felt very good this time last year. I think most of you in the media, predicted that we were going to have a great season, and some even predicted we’d go to the Super Bowl. I didn’t quite buy into that, but I certainly did not see 3-13.”
Mara isn’t expecting this team to take its time to getting where it needs to be, mainly the playoffs.
“I think getting back into camp and seeing the players we have on that field,” Mara said. “and getting ready to play games this year, I feel good about where we are.”
Another training camp begins and quarterback Eli Manning is back under center. Mara was asked how much he has left entering his 15th season.
“I think he’s still got a lot of really good football left in him,” Mara said. “I think we have a little better supporting cast around him this year. If we could just stay healthy, I think you’ll see some very good football from No. 10.”
Confidence in Manning was something the owners were looking for when interviewing for the general manager positions and head coach positions. Mara mentioned that if either Shurmur or Dave Gettleman felt differently, things might not have turned out the same.
“I think we would have taken that into consideration and we might be having a different conversation right now,” Mara said.
Mara also weighed in the ongoing debate over the NFL’s national anthem policy
“There will be meetings fairly soon, and there have been discussions about the anthem policy,” Mara said. “Hopefully, we will be able to come to some sort of resolution that everyone can buy into.”
Mara said once those discussions take place he will meet with the veterans of the team and see where they stand on the issue.
“My intention all along has been to sit with our veteran players when they came back to training camp and just discuss the issue, depending on these discussions with the NFLPA, I think we’re going to let those play out before I sit down and talk about that with our players,” Mara said.
Mara talked about Gettleman’s health. Gettleman announced a cancer diagnosis in the spring. This week, the team received the uplifting news that his cancer is in remission.
“Dave is doing great,” Mara said. “It was reported yesterday, I think, that he’s in remission, and he was in the office yesterday, actually. I think he will be in later this afternoon, but he’s doing well. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a more upbeat person in my life, particularly going through what he’s going through. But he’s very optimistic about his recovery and about his ability to work this year, and you know, we’re very excited about that. It’s the best news we’ve had in a long time.”
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Mara also spoke on rookie running back Saquon Barkley, who hasn’t played a down in a regular season game but his popularity has already skyrocketed.
“I mean, his jersey is already the No. 1 selling jersey, he’s gotten a lot of attention.” Mara stated. “Let’s not get him ready for Canton just yet, let’s let him play some games first.”
Mara mentioned the last Giants rookie to garner this much admiration was Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1981. He also said Barkley is very humble and has handled himself well in the spotlight.
“I think in speaking to him and watching how he conducts himself, I think he is able to handle that, so I feel good about that,” Mara said.
Mara also talked about Odell Beckham Jr.’s contract situation. Shurmur talked about his health and availability.
“Odell will be ready today, but he is coming back from injury so we are going to be smart in how much we give him. I fully expect him to be getting ready for (the regular season opener against the) Jacksonville (Jaguars on Sept. 9),” Shurmur said.
Shurmur, entering his first season as Giants head coach, seems excited to begin training camp.
“This is terrific,” Shurmur said. “As coaches and players, this is what we do. This is our livelihoods, our passion, our hobby, playing football is what we do.”
The fact that players seem to be fully engaged and excited about the upcoming season isn’t lost on the head coach either.
“There is a lot of excitement. We have very competitive guys, who understand what this is about. I’m looking forward to it,” Shurmur said.
Shurmur addressed the injury of cornerback Sam Beal, who will likely miss the 2018 season with a shoulder injury. He confirmed Gettleman and the coaching staff were aware of Beal’s injury history before selecting him in the supplemental draft earlier this month.
Shurmur also mentioned a few players by name and spoke of potential position battles in training camp.
He expects second-year linebacker Avery Moss to compete for playing time with rookie Lorenzo Carter. He appreciates the leadership of free agent offensive tackle Nate Solder. He also likes the toughness and nastiness rookie offensive lineman Will Hernandez brings to the table.
Naturally, Shurmur talked about Barkley. He emphasized the No. 2 overall pick still has a lot of work to do. He emphasized Barkley is still a rookie, even if it might not seem like it. Shurmur said Barkley has many of the same qualities he saw last season in running back Dalvin Cook as Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator.
All in all, it was a very informative day from Mara and Shurmur. They are both extremely excited about the upcoming season and feel positive that success is attainable sooner rather than later.