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Giants Begin OTAs

The Giants begun OTA’s today (organized team activities). The media was not allowed in, but has some tidbits:

The Giants took a small but significant step toward the 2009 season today with the first of their 10 organized team activities (OTAs). The offense and defense will work separately for the first two sessions before the entire team comes together for eight light practices, plus a full-squad minicamp, over the next three weeks.

“This time of the year, your clock tells you it’s time to be out there,” Coach Tom Coughlin said. “It’s time to be out on the field. It’s time to stop speculating and talking about it. Obviously, it’s not padded and it’s not training camp yet, but to get these guys out there and just let them understand as young people what it takes and what it’s going to take, let them look around and size people up, let other people size them up, see how people can contribute, start to use your imagination as to how they all fit in, it’s a good time. It’s something we really look forward to and it’s an opportunity to be on the field with the players right now to develop the comaraderie, to get the feeling of give and take that goes with being an athlete at this level, allowing their personalities to come out a little bit even for the young guys. It’s a good time to be out there.”

“It’s a good day,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “This is what we like to do – we like to play football. We like to be on the field competing and throwing the ball around. That’s what our job is. It’s good to be out there with the coaches and seeing the abilities of some of the new guys and seeing how other guys have improved. It’s good to get started and know that the practices are coming around and we’re getting closer to the season.”

The Giants were last on the field on Jan. 11, when they lost an NFC Divisional Playoff Game to the Philadelphia Eagles. Since then, the team has undergone several significant changes, including new faces and assignments on the coaching staff, the addition of several players and a move to the team’s beautiful new training facility.

“It’s great to be back out on the field,” tight end Kevin Boss said. “The way last season ended left a bad taste in our mouths. It’s good to start working toward the new season.”

Today marked the first on-field work for new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, who succeeded Steve Spagnuolo, now the head coach of the St. Louis Rams.

“It was interesting to see him in front of the team and talking to the whole defense and speaking in front of everybody,” said middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who had Sheridan as his position coach the previous four seasons. “I’m used to hearing him speak, so that’s nothing new. I think just watching everybody else interacting with him and now looking at him, all eyes are on him now. We look to him for leadership. He sets the tone with us by his leading and the way he approaches us and his philosophy of defense. I think it’ll be fun. It’s going to be a work in progress. I’m pretty sure by the time we get to training camp we’ll be alright.”

“It felt normal,” defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “Bill is going to be himself. He hasn’t changed at all. The same way he was before, the way he talks, his whole attitude is the exact same. We felt comfortable with him. We’ve always felt comfortable with him. I think he’s going to do a fantastic job.”

Umenyiora’s presence on the field made this a milestone day. The two-time Pro Bowler, who led the Giants in sacks every year from 2004-2007, missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury in a preseason game against the Jets. Umenyiora has endured a long and arduous rehabilitation. He canceled a trip to Nigeria with other NFL players from that country to stay here and work. Today, he became a football player again.

“It felt good,” Umenyiora said. “I was excited, very excited to be around those guys. I realized I missed them. I miss being out there. This is my seventh year. I’m the oldest (longest-tenured) guy here. Imagine that, I’m the oldest guy on this defense as far as being with the Giants. When I look around, it’s just amazing that I’ve been here that long. I’m just happy to be here.”

“It’s good to see him out there,” Coughlin said. “He’s really had a good offseason. He’s been very good in the weight room. His strength, development, and conditioning have been outstanding, so it’s good to have him back out on the field working on the technical aspect of his game.”

Umenyiora has been running regularly and lifting weights, but today he got to be a football player for the first time in nine months.

“It was definitely fun,” Umenyiora said. “It felt weird. I was a little rusty. But I felt good at the same time. I think all the work that I’ve put in the past year or so has really paid off. I feel explosive. I feel good.”

Asked how he came out of his stance, Umenyiora said, “All of that’s wonderful. My technique is a little rusty still, but I’ve been off for a whole year. It’ll get where it needs to be.”

Umenyiora anticipates having no problems with his surgically-repaired knee.

“The pain is basically gone,” he said. “There’s a little bit, but that’s been there since I’ve been in the NFL. I had that little knee thing. I’m used to dealing with that. The surgery went extremely well. I don’t even feel that pain at all. I feel good. I feel like I look — good — and that’s all that’s important.”

Also looking good is the Giants’ new training facility. The players have been in there for two weeks and have offered rave reviews for everything from the big football-shaped locker room to the huge weight room and spacious cafeteria. Today, they worked for the first time in the field house, which has a full 100-yard field – about 50 yards longer than the field in their old practice bubble.

“It’s an incredible facility,” Coughlin said. “It’s really something to be in there and just to realize it’s the New York Giants training facility.”

“I feel like we’re playing in an indoor stadium,” Pierce said. “It’s like Ford Field or the Metrodome. That’s how big it is. I don’t want to say the bubble was small, but there you only really have 30 yards. The offense has 30 yards and we’ve got 30 yards, so you can’t really do anything. Now, we’ve got a whole football field. Guys that want to run streaks, they can do it and show off their speed. I think it’s just good. It’s high enough. (Punter Jeff) Feagles can’t hit the lights anymore and try to break the lights. It should be good for us this season.”

It’s likely no one will benefit more from the field house dimensions than Manning, who can now throw a deep pass without fear his receiver will bounce off the skin of the bubble.

“The field house is unbelievable,” Manning said. “It’s so much better, the lighting, there’s more room. You can get all your work in. You can throw your deep routes. You don’t have to worry about running the guy into the wall. You can really let it go. It’ll definitely help us be a better team. With the more room, working in the red zone and having room behind it, you can use the whole end zone.”

With a great place to work and enthusiasm and confidence as they point toward the season, the Giants look forward to working hard before taking their pre-training camp break.

“It’s really just the receivers and tight ends and running backs on the field with the quarterbacks at the same time,” Manning said. “We’re going through the base stuff and the kind of stuff we’ve been doing in the offseason by ourselves. We had the coaches out there today. It’s good just to get everybody out and get everybody on the same page and get the tempo of what practice might be like so when we get into some of these real practices, everybody is ready to go.”

“From the team standpoint, you’ve got everybody here at the same time,” Pierce said. “Nobody’s coming in at different times to work out. Everybody is here to greet one another and meet one another. For us defensively, it’s the first time we’re putting all of our new faces out on the field. Even though it’s not a game-like situation, we’re out there practicing. By practicing together guys get to know one another and get used to tendencies, mannerisms, and all of that stuff. We have a new defensive coordinator. You have to put all of that stuff into perspective. We did today. You could see by the energy our defense had just being out there and going through the walk-through. The guys are very energized.”

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One Response to “Giants Begin OTAs”

  1. […] marked the first on-field work for new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, who succeeded Steve Spagnuolo, now the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. “It was interesting to see him in front of the team and talking to the whole … […]

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