Before answering any questions, Shurmur acknowledged his friend and former colleague Tony Sparano. Sparano unexpectedly died at the age of 56 on the day Giants rookies and certain veteran players reported to training camp.
“When you work with guys early in the morning until late at night, you go through adversity,” Shurmur said. “You quickly become friends and that certainly was the case with Tony.”
Both Shurmur and Sparano were on the Minnesota Vikings’ coaching staff for the past two seasons. Sparano’s funeral was held Friday in Wayzata, Minn.
Shurmur then shifted the focus to his team.
As it’s been well documented, the Giants have a large number of players coming back from injury. It’s only natural the team will be cautious when it comes to their work load. It’s a thin line between being careful and not getting enough work done with only a limited number of practices available.
Shurmur explained it’s about the quality of practice and not necessarily the number of practices.
“Younger guys can handle and need more reps,” he said. “Older guys, more experienced guys, can get the right amount of work with the reps they get and we’re not quite in pads yet.”
The Giants held the first of three training camp practices in pads Saturday.
The players are really excited to be back and getting prepared for the upcoming season. No one seems to be as excited as wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Coming off a season-ending injury and entering the final year of his rookie contract, Beckham has plenty to prove.
Shurmur said Beckham is taking the process of improving seriously.
“You see he’s very energetic on the practice field,” he said. “He had some production yesterday, caught a couple balls from (quarterback) Eli (Manning), in there blocking a little bit, and involved with the punt returns.”
Shurmur, in his first training camp as Giants head coach, is still getting to know each player’s personality. He is quickly finding about Beckham and his love for the game.
“He’s actually fun to be around on the practice field and it’s very obvious to me that the guy loves to play football,” he said. “When you’re in a practice setting like that and you see that, it’s pretty obvious.”
The conversation then turned to rookie running back Saquon Barkley. Shurmur reiterated what has been mentioned many times by management and the coaching staff: everyone needs to remember he is still a rookie.
“He needs to go through the process and he was the second pick in the draft,” he said. “Certainly, we know what we expect from him. He’s also a rookie and there’s certain things that you have to do.”
Shurmur also said Barkley has handled it all very well and that’s what matters.
“The good news is he understands what he has to do and he’s doing it. That’s what we keep track of,” he said.
In a previous interview, wide receiver Sterling Shepard stated Shurmur’s offense is unpredictable with different sub packages, personnel groupings and players being placed in different positions. Shurmur acknowledged the talent is there but without proper offensive line play and a decent running game, the system doesn’t work as well.
“There’s a lot of really, really good players,” he said. “But it starts by getting them blocked and protecting the quarterback and being able to run the ball when you want to run it and really when they know you’re going to run it and then all that other stuff will take shape. We’re looking forward to putting it all together and everything looks good on paper and now we just have to get trained up and ready to go.”
When talking about the kicking game, Shurmur is confident, so far, in Aldrick Rosas. Rosas struggled mightily in his rookie season, going 18-for-27 on field goals (72 percent).
“I saw a lot of good things in the spring. Based on what I’ve seen, he’s got a very strong leg, ” he said. “He improved, in my opinion, his field goal and extra point mechanics through the spring. Hopefully we’ll see that continued improvement.”
It will be interesting to see if the Giants bring in a veteran kicker to put some pressure on Rosas.
Shurmur also said nose tackle Damon Harrison would be limited as part of a routine that he accepted. He also said safety Landon Collins, who broke his forearm last December, is a full participant in practice without restrictions.