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After Shaun Rogers was lost for the season due to a blood clot in his leg, the New York Giants were left looking for another rotaional player to plug in on the defensive line.
Enter Marcus Thomas, an ex-Denver Bronco who could potentially fill the void left by Rogers. Thomas is scheduled to visit the Giants on Thursday, according to Ohm Youngmisuk via twitter.
At 26-years-old, Thomas has been very productive in his five-year NFL career. The Japan native had his best season to date in 2011, registering 45 tackles (29 solo) in just 12 games. In his five campaigns, Thomas has shown incredible durability, only missing four games (all in 2011).
The New York Giants announced several roster moves on Wednesday. The Giants signed defensive tackles Carlton Powell and Oren Wilson. The Giants also waived injured defensive tackle Martin Parker. Parker has a herniated disk in his back which will require surgery.
Powell (6-foot-3, 310) was a fifth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2008. Powell spent his rookie season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Since that season, Powell has spent time on the practice squads for the Browns and Broncos and was in training camp with the Buccaneers (2010) and Jets (2011). Powell saw three games worth of action for the Falcons last season and made one assisted tackle.
Wilson (6-foot-1, 305) is an undrafted rookie out of Akron. Wilson transferred to Akron after originally playing for Michigan State.
The Giants needed to make the depth moves after Parker and Shaun Rogers (blood clot in leg) were ruled out for the season.
Giants' star defensive end Justin Tuck, who battled shoulder issues for much of the 2011 season, considered retiring and not coming back for the 2012 campaign. Tuck is the unquestioned leader of the defense, a captain who leads both off the field and on it with consistent production.
But that was significantly hampered last year, and Tuck talked about not being able to lift his shoulder before games, and the guilt he felt by potentially hurting his team with sub-standard play for the two-time Pro-Bowler. That led to some personal reflection and discussion with his closest colleagues, family, and friends. Tuck stated that retirement was contemplated, via Steve Serby of the New York Post:
"After the hardships of last year, I did some soul-searching, and really had to ask myself if this is what I want," Tuck said. "Obviously, I'm back, and I just feel kind of refreshed mentally. I think a lot of things were weighing on me last year where I couldn't necessarily be my normal self on and off the football field. I've kind of put those things in the past now and moved forward."
Tuck also lost two family members, a grandfather and an uncle, during the season and was simply not himself. That confluence of factors pushed him to the point of considering giving up the game he loves at the age of 28.
As the Giants work through the 2012 preseason, those difficulties and retirement thoughts appear well behind Tuck. This will now be his eighth season in the NFL, all of them with the Giants.
In April, the New York Giants signed defensive linemen Shaun Rogers to add depth to an already loaded front line. Rogers, however, Rogers will miss the rest of the season due to a blood clot in his lower leg, head coach tom Coughlin announced after practice on Tuesday.
"It’s very sad, because you don’t know the real story. He lost 50 pounds. He went from the high 380s to 334 to check in at. He was really excited about being a part of this team," Coughlin said. "He got along really well with our defensive linemen. He actually asked to go play some more snaps the other night, which I thought was really neat. It’s just a shame.
Earlier on Tuesday, it was reported that Rogers' blood clot was examined by team physician Dr. Russell Warren at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan on Monday and was going to be re-examined by vascular surgeon Dr. John Karwowaki on Tues., as the severity of it was unknown.
Obviously, the news from the doctors was not good.
The Giants also announced Tuesday that reserve defensive tackle Martin Parker will be lost for the season with a herniated disc in his back. Plus, defensive tackle Marvin austin was having back examined at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
"I’m praying that when the phone call comes (about Austin), it’s a good one," Coughlin said.
With all of the injuries at the same position Coughlin said the Giants are "in the process" of adding a defensive tackle to the roster.
-- SB Nation's Jared Smith contributed to this report
The injury bug hit the New York Giants defensive line hard Tuesday. According to SB Nation's Big Blue View, three players, including newly-signed free agent Shaun Rogers, are not participating in training camp due to health issues.
Rogers has a blood clot in his left leg, the severity of which is not yet known, while Martin Parker will reportedly undergo surgery for a herniated disc in his back, an injury that will end his season. Meanwhile, Marvin Austin is also suffering from a bad back.
With the loss of Rogers, Parker and Austin, the door has opened for defensive endand defensive tackle , says Big Blue View's Ed Valentine.
Tracy, a 2009 sixth-round pick, has been impressive during training camp. Hendricks also recently drew praise from head coach Tom Coughlin.
Both players may now be headed toward situations where they go from training camp curiosities to relied upon parts of the Giants' 2012 defense.
Nicks began training camp on the PUP list while he recovered from a foot injury. Nicks fractured his right foot in late May while he was running routes during practice. He had surgery and was initially expected to be out for 12 weeks. While there was initially some concern that the injury could keep Nicks out of the regular season opener, he targeted a mid-August return the entire time.
Nicks was seen running routes on a side field Monday at UAlbany. Asked after practice when Nicks might begin practicing, head coach Tom Coughlin said "soon." He did not, however, say it would be pretty much as soon as reporters had walked from the practice facility to the media work room.
Tuesday will be the final day of training camp at UAlbany.
The 24-year-old wide receiver is entering his fourth NFL season. He was the Giants' second-leading receiver last season with 76 receptions for 1,192 yards.
“This is an indication that we’re right where we should be,” Nicks said. “We’re on schedule. There have been no setbacks. Thank the Lord for that. I’m just going to take it one step at a time and be out there catching passes from Eli (Manning) and eventually getting our timing back.”
Nicks is confident the foot will cause no problems going forward.
“It feels good,” he said. “I know it’s probably going to take me getting over it within my head, but that’s going to come with more reps on it and getting those routes down and getting the timing back.
For more on Nicks and the Giants, visit Big Blue View
Sunday afternoon New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin had still not shaken off his disappointment over much of what he saw in Friday's preseason-opening 32-31 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. During Sunday's film session he gave his team a list of 10 things to work on and said he "probably could have given them 20."
"The whole thing is about improvement," Coughlin said. "The pressure is to get better and we should get better."
The Giants muffed two punts in the preseason game, one by Jayron Hosley and one by Jerrel Jernigan, and finding a returner who can consistently secure the ball will be a focus of the rest of the preseason.
"Are you available to try," Coughlin asked a curious reporter. "I’ll put out whoever wants to come out here and catch punts. We have about five guys and they’re going to keep grinding away."
INJURY NOTES: Left tackle Will Beatty (back) returned to practice on a limited basis. Justin Trattou (ankle), Michael Boley (hamstring), Jacquain Williams (hip), Shaun Rogers (knee) and David Douglas (quad) were among those who did not practice.
The Giants have only three practices remaining in Albany (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, all from 1-3:30 p.m.). Head coach Tom Coughlin knows that there is a lot of work to be done before the defending Super Bowl champions are ready to defend their crown.
"We have no illusion about the improvement that needs to be made and I’m talking about from the top of our team to the bottom of our team," Coughlin said during a conference call on Saturday. "We’re not anywhere near where we need to be."
The Giants will head back to New Jersey after practice on Tuesday. They will have Wednesday off and will then prepare to face the New York Jets on Saturday at MetLife Stadium (7 p.m. ET). The Jets will be the host team for the annual game between the stadium's co-tenants.
"We’ve got a lot of things to correct and we’re not going to deny any of the issues that were present. We’re going to work hard to solve them and we’re going to work hard to improve our roster from top to bottom," Coughlin said.
NOTES: The Giants came out of Friday's game with no new injuries. ... After a thunderstorm-filled Sunday in the Albany area, Monday's forecast includes a 30 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms.
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday that he is looking forward to Friday's preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The coach said the preseason game offered "an opportunity to tackle and have total physical contact, which we need."
Contrary to some teams the Giants do no tackling during training camp.
"Some people have scrimmages, I think we have four scrimmages," Coughlin said. "That’s what we do with our preseason games."
[Related: Injured Terrell Thomas Talks To Media]
The Giants held their final practice before the Jacksonville game on Wednesday, a glorified walk-thru on the UAlbany practice fields.
"The objective is always to win but it’s all about personnel," Coughlin said. "Hopefully we’re good enough and deep enough that the guys will get in the game and respond and enjoy themselves. I want them to play hard and give us a chance to do some evaluating and trying to figure out how people fit."
The Giants will not practice Thursday as they travel to Jacksonville for Friday's game.
NOTES: Coughlin said starters will play "15 to 18" snaps. ... He said there are 11 players who won't play, and "you know who they are." They would be: Terrell Thomas (knee), Clint Sintim (knee, PUP), Travis Beckum (knee, PUP), Chris Canty (knee), Hakeem Nicks (foot), Will Beatty (back), Michael Boley (hamstring), Jacquain Williams (hip), Justin Trattou (ankle), Da'Rel Scott, Jake Muasau.
New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is still on the physically unable to perform list, but says he is not experiencing pain in the foot he fractured back in May. Nicks was running routes at Giants training camp at the University of Albany on Tuesday.
Nicks has not ruled out practicing with the team in Albany, but also said that he is not concerned about being able to play in preseason games.
"I don't really think about it. My main concern is making sure that when I do step on the field that I'm healthy, and I'm 100 percent. That's our whole focus right now - need to make sure we're taking the right steps to make it that way."
However, Nicks feels he is still on track to play in the Giants' season-opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 5.
"Definitely still on target, no setbacks. Everything is going well. I've been running every day. No setbacks. Feeling good. Getting back."
For more on the Giants, please be sure to check out our blog Big Blue View.
New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin reported on Monday that cornerback Terrell Thomas will avoid surgery on his surgically-repaired right knee and start rehab. Dr. James Andrews said that he does not believe that Thomas needs surgery at this point in time on the knee. Thomas, returning from his second torn ACL, has been out of Giants training camp since slipping on the field during the third day of practice.
Coughlin said on Monday, "The suggestion on the part of the group of doctors that have looked at Terrell Thomas is that we try to rehab him and see how he does, and if he can get back on the field to do so." Coughlin did not have a timeframe for a return for Thomas. "He'll jump in there, I'm sure he'll go hard," Coughlin said. "He feels very positive about it. He really doesn't feel any pain, does not feel instability, it's not swollen."
For more on the Giants, please be sure to check out our blog Big Blue View.
Will Hill is getting a chance with the New York Giants. So far, the former New Jersey high school star is making the most of it.
Will Beatty, starting left tackle for the New York Giants, missed practice Friday at UAlbany due to issues with his troublesome back. Beatty missed all of OTAs and the mandatory mini-camp due to the back injury, which he originally suffered while training on his own.
"He was kind of slowing down a little bit. So I think they’re going to look at that," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin.
Beatty missed the final six games last season with a detached retina, but is being counted on to return to the left tackle spot. The Giants seemed to try to limit Beatty's snaps for the first week of training camp, but the fact that Beatty could not go Friday after the Giants practiced in full pads on Thursday is a troubling sign.
In Beatty's absence, nine-year veteran Sean Locklear was working at left tackle. Locklear has started 82 NFL games, but only 13 of those at left tackle. Three of those starts came last season with the Washington Redskins.
-- See Big Blue View for more about the Giants
During an otherwise routine training camp Sunday in Albany, N.Y., Domenik Hixon had flashbacks to his worst nightmare, the pain he endured from having consecutive seasons halted by a torn ACL. Hixon was an eyewitness during training camp on when cornerback Terrell Thomas slipped and fell during practice, suffering what various reports believe is a partial tear of his right ACL – the same injury that put him out of commission for all of last year. If it is torn, this will be the third torn ACL for Thomas.
Hixon is trying to return a pair of ACL injuries that have cost him most of the last two seasons. Yet the news surrounding Thomas is not only sobering, it’s stricken fear into Hixon over the possibility that the bug can bite at any given moment – and bite hard.
"I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t (scare me)," Hixon said Monday. "He was working hard at coming back and a lot of things he was doing I was doing. We were working out together so I saw how hard he worked. It was kind of tough seeing him go down just knowing how hard he worked at coming back."
Thomas’ career may be over at the tender age of 27. Hixon, also 27, is in the midst of attempting the same comeback Thomas was attempting during this training camp. Recalling both his rehab stints, Hixon believes he recovered a little faster when the cadaver was used to fix the ligament, though unlike the tendon graft the cadaver isn’t as strong when fully healed. When Thomas reported to camp he was in excellent physical condition and ready to fortify a Giants secondary that thanks to numerous injuries was a revolving door during the team’s Super Bowl-winning season.
Then, just like that, Thomas may have lost his livelihood with one slip. And as Hixon continued to compare his plight to that of his fallen teammate, the only certainly was nobody ever sees a bad break coming.
"People say ‘healthy’ but what does that mean?" Hixon said. "You work out every day and you try to do the right thing recovering. The leg workouts you do while you’re recovering are outrageous. Like I said before, when him and I were working out together I felt that we were coming back stronger. But then something like that happens and it’s tough. My heart goes out to him.
"I’m devastated for him and I know how much he was looking forward to coming back. I guess he’s getting a check up in California, so hopefully he comes back with some good news. It’s just stressful."
A surprise big-play contributor at wide receiver and special teams, Hixon suffered the second injury last season at home against the Rams while making a 22-yard juggling touchdown catch in the Giants’ 28-16 Monday night victory. Prior to getting hurt, Hixon was starting to come into his own as the third wideout behind Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, pulling in four receptions and averaging 12.5 yards a catch to go with that one score.
The funny thing was Hixon, soon after his highlight-reel grab, didn’t immediately realize that something was wrong. He continued to play in the second half until pulling out when he felt discomfort, but nothing like the pain from the first injury.
"They didn’t know how much it was torn," Hixon said. "When they did the surgery, they said we’re going to open you up and if you’re good to go we’ll sew you back up, or you may have a new ligament. If you looked at the picture, everything looked good until where the screw was put in. So they determined it was torn about 80 percent or so, but you can’t be 80 percent torn and playing in the NFL. You can be torn 80 percent in life, yes, but in the NFL, no."
Now at or close to 100 percent, Hixon has his best opportunity to secure the slot-receiver’s job playing with Hicks and Victor Cruz. The best part about it is there is nothing holding him back, and he’s reaping the benefits of full minicamps and offseason workouts in lieu of last year’s NFL lockout that pressed players back in action on a rapid schedule.
"I feel great. I really do," Hixon said. "I feel blessed and fortunate. I feel like the cadaver worked out a little better for me. Also, us having the summer program and being able to work out helped out tremendously, rather than just jumping into training camp.
"No restrictions. Like I said, I feel blessed. I feel good and I’m having a lot of fun. It feels good to be back."
Hixon is not only healthy, he’s armed with perspective. In adversity, there’s strength, and few have gone through as much as the fifth-year pro out of Akron. He plans on taking such fortitude to not only on the field, but to serve as an example of hope, even if Thomas’ prospects appear dim.
"He definitely can do it, Hixon said. "When you’re going through surgery a lot of things are going through your mind. The mental game that’s played, well unless you’ve been through it no one can understand. You can assume a lot of things but it’s one of toughest things for a professional athlete. It’s your job, so when you get injured that’s tough."
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC
New York Giants safety Tyler Sash was suspended by the NFL on Tuesday for four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy. On Wednesday, Sash talked to the media about his suspension.
Giants running back Andre Brown had his suspension for the same drug, Adderall, lifted after an appeal earlier this offseason. Sash declined to compared himself to Brown.
"I think everybody's situation is a little different so I can't really compare myself to Andre. I just put something in my body that I had a prescription from my doctor for. But I am a professional and I need to handle myself in a professional manner, meaning I need to know all the rules," Sash said. "At that time I was not informed and I have to own up to my mistake and suffer the consequences. I just have to look at the positives, like the fact that I'm still on the team. I'm still going to practice and go through with all the preseason games. I'm excited about that."
Sash did say that he was not aware that when Brown went through the appeal process that his suspension was due to Adderall. Like Brown, Sash has a prescription for the drug and said the league did not give him a lengthy explanation of why they denied his appeal.
"They basically just deny it. I just got the call yesterday. This has been going on with me since April right before OTAs, so I've been dealing with this for a while now," Sash said.
In a statement after the suspension, the second-year safety out of Iowa said he was unaware that Adderall was a banned substance by the NFL. Sash also said he began taking the drug to deal with his anxiety about public speaking appearances.
The NFL has suspended New York Giants reserve safety Tyler Sash four games for a violation of the league's performance enhancing drugs policy.
The news comes just one day after the Giants found out that cornerback Terrell Thomas, trying to come back after missing last season with a torn ACL, needs surgery on the same knee for another possible torn ACL.
Sash released a statement in which he said he used Adderall under a doctor's care. It read:
"I took a prescription drug (Adderall) legally under a doctor's care for an anxiety condition during the off season in March of this year. The purpose was to help me with public speaking appearances. I had no idea that this prescription drug was banned by NFL policy. Although I take full responsibility for this situation, I also want to state that I have never cheated or taken performance-enhancing drugs, and I frown on those who do."
-- See Big Blue View for more about the Giants
The New York Giants received a bit of a scare the last two days as linebacker Michael Boley had to sit out practice and go to the Hospital for Special Surgery Monday to get his hamstring examined. The news of Boley's injury, however, got a bit better Tuesday, as New York Daily New's Ralph Vacchiano is reporting there was no "significant injury" to the hamstring.
The news will come a relief to Giants fans, who have already seen injuries to linebacker Keith Rivers, who has also missed practice for the last two days, and are now possibly going to lose cornerback Terrell Thomas to a season-ending knee surgery.
Thomas injured his right knee on Sunday when he slipped during a drill at practice. On Monday, the team sent Thomas to get an MRI on his knee at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. He has torn his ACL twice, once in college and once with the Giants. The MRI showed damage to the ACL.
"Terrell re-injured his ACL," said Giants senior vice president of medical services Ronnie Barnes. "At this point, he will most likely undergo an arthroscopic procedure to determine the extent of the injury to the ACL. However, no decision has been made at this point. Terrell is going to consult with Dr. (Arthur) Ting, who performed an allograft reconstruction of the ACL in September."
Thomas made 231 tackles, 11 interceptions and forced six fumbles for the Giants from 2008-2010.
When he broke his foot during off-season workouts, New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was adamant that despite needing surgery he would be ready to start the regular season. Sunday Nicks said he is on target to do just that.
"There are definitely no setbacks. Everything is going the way we planned, so we’re just sticking to the things that the doctors and trainers told us," Nicks said.
Nicks said he has begun to run and believes he will be back on the practice field by mid-August. Sunday he could be seen on a side field at UAlbany doing a handful of individual agility drills as the rest of the team practiced.
[See Big Blue View For More Giants Coverage]
"I’m ready to get back at it, and I feel like I need to be out there with the guys. I’m just following the instructions of the team doctors and the team trainers," Nicks said.
Nicks, 24, is entering his fourth NFL season. He caught 76 passes last season for 1,192 yards (15.7 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. Along with Victor Cruz he forms one of the most dangerous receiving duos in the NFL.
Victor Cruz said during the offseason that he would like a new contract after a record-setting first full season with the New York Giants, but that he wasn't going to hold out or make a big fuss over it. The amazingly popular wide receiver has kept his word.
Saturday, Giants general manager Jerry Reese said a new deal for Cruz, who could be a restricted free agent at the end of this season, "could happen."
" It could happen. All those options are open, but right now we’re just focused, Victor is just focused on being a good football player again," Reese said. "The contract situation will take care of itself."
Cruz set a Giants' single-season receiving record a season ago with 1,536 yards worth of catches from Eli Manning. He also worked his way into the hearts of Giants' fans with his salsa-dancing touchdown celebration and his bubbly personality.
During the first two days of training camp at UAlbany Cruz has easily been the Giant who has gotten the most attention from fans in attendance. Chants of 'Cruuuz,' calls for the salsa dance and loud reactions have been the norm whenever Cruz has made a play during the first two days -- which has been frequently.
Cruz said it has been "refreshing" to hear the fans calling his name.
"I just want to keep it going. Keep on making plays. And keep on giving the fans reasons to chant my name," he said.
It sounds like Reese and the Giants want to make sure Giants fans continue to have that opportunity for several years to come.
The New York Giants have been going through tight ends in recent years like nobody's business.
Despite that type of turnover at a key position, Eli Manning and the team haven't skipped a beat, winning two Super Bowls and becoming the toast of New York.
Last year it appeared the team might have had a long-term solution in Jake Ballard. Unfortunately, Ballard blew out his knee in the Super Bowl and was released, opening up a spot for ex-Dallas Cowboy Martellus Bennett.
When asked about his tight ends on Saturday, general manager Jerry Reese says he likes how that position is coming along.
"We have some big guys. Athletes. Somebody is just going to have to step out of the shadows.has been around for a long time. He can do a lot of things for us. is a new guy on the block. He has some things he can prove. He wants to prove to us. All the young kids. We have some big athletic tight ends that can do the job."
Of course after coming off a championship season, Reese feels good about the team at this point. Although like any good front office man, he's far from content.
"Well, I think it’s a good roster. I think it’s a really good roster. It remains to be seen as to how good we can be. I think we can be strong, and we can be good again. But you have to do it, you can’t talk about it, you have to go out there and do it."
The New York Giants appear to have suffered their first major injury of 2012 training camp on Saturday. Defensive end Justin Trattou had to be carted off the field after suffering an injury to his left ankle during Saturday's practice at UAlbany.
"He was hobbled pretty good there," Giants coach Coughlin said. "They had to send him for X-rays. We’ll see what it is."
Running back Da'Rel Scott sat out the workout after spraining his ankle during Friday's practice. Cornerback Terrell Thomas participated in the 7-on-7 portion of practice one day after suffering back spasms. Thomas is returning after missing last season due to a torn ACL. The Giants announced attendance of 5,110 for autograph day.
-- See Big Blue View for more Giants coverage
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is coming off a season for the ages -- and he says he is only about 50 percent from optimum performance.
Despite morning downpours the New York Giants were able to get outside for their first day of practice Friday at UAlbany.
"I was worried this morning. But the weather did help, did cooperate with us this afternoon," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "We have 15 (practices) up here, and we need all 15. That's what I mean by the rain situation, and you're trying to figure out whether you're going to be able to get it in. Fortunately, we did. So, that's a huge plus."
Coughlin likes the attitude the defending Super Bowl champions have displayed thus far.
"I had the sense when we first arrived, and in our meetings, that they were focused. They are very interested in what's going on. They still feel good about themselves, and they understand about taking this next stride," Coughlin said. "There's no going backwards. They do have, we do have a lot to prove, and we do have a lot to improve upon, and that's the attitude that I think they've taken."
Cornerback Terrell Thomas left practice early when his back tightened up. Coughlin said there was no issue with Thomas' surgically-repaired knee.
-- See Big Blue View for more training camp coverage
When Victor Cruz stepped foot on the campus of the University of Albany for the first time since he was an undrafted and anonymous free agent two years ago, he paused to study his surroundings. He stood still and reflected over a journey that transformed the diminutive 6-0 wide receiver born and raised on the rough streets of Paterson, N.J., from ordinary to extraordinary.
Cruz's rise was memorable in its explosive brilliance, a run that started so dramatically in Week 3 of the 2012 NFL season. He caught three passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the Giants' upset of the Eagles in Philadelphia. Months later after becoming a Super Bowl champion, Cruz politely turned down the chance to impress the judges and sultry women of "Dancing With the Stars" with the "Silk City Salsa." Even when arriving to Albany driving an Audi, it's still his nature to stay humble.
"It’s a little different," Cruz told the assembled media on the day the Giants' defense of their fourth Super Bowl championship began in earnest. "I mean, it’s up here, you know I’m not as nervous as I was the first time, not knowing if I was going to make the team, or what was going to happen. You know you never know what’s going to happen when you come up as a rookie free agent, but this year it’s a little more calming to come up and continue to fine-tune my skills, and just get better every day and keep competing, because that’s what I did every year leading up to this point, so that’s what I want to continue to do."
Cruz was excited over the nostalgia trip, and equally anxious to prove that he's legit and not a transient star that burns out and fades away. Tom Coughlin's mantra last season was "Finish." This year it's "Sustain." And that applies to Cruz and the rest of his Giants teammates many pundits continue to stubbornly refuse to take seriously. It's logical that Cruz and the Giants were made for one another. Nobody gave Cruz even a passing glance despite his 131 catches, 11 touchdowns and under 1,958 receiving yards despite not starting until his junior season at the University of Massachusetts.
Many are blowing off any chance the Giants have of repeating as champions. This was a team on death's door until beginning their miraculous ride with Cruz's 99-yard touchdown catch-and-run against the Jets in Week 16. It's easy to forget, scoffs the critics, that the Giants actually finished 9-7, clinched the NFC East in the final game of the regular season and faces, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the toughest schedule of any defending champ.
Perfect, says Cruz. Bring it. He and the Giants have that old chip on their shoulder. Next to winning it all, Big Blue loves to prove so-called experts wrong, and that's another way one can sum up Mission 2012: Sustain, Defy and Do It Again.
"I think we still have that," Cruz said. "Coming into this season nobody is picking us to win, everybody is picking us to be last in the division, and things of that nature. Surely that puts a chip on our shoulder. We want to come out and prove people wrong, like we essentially have to do every year. That chip is definitely still there, and we’re going to be working hard to knock that chip off our shoulder at the end of the year. It’s not the easiest, but I think as a team, we understand that at some point we have to cross that bridge and go on to the next season and try to do it all over again. I think all of us understand that. We’re hungry, we want to keep winning, and win another championship. We understand that in order to do that, we have to put the past behind us, and focus on right now.
"It doesn’t upset me. It’s just something that I see on TV, I see on SportsCenter, or different shows, it doesn’t upset me at all. It’s just something that we take with us into the season knowing that nobody is really picking us to win. They’re picking all the other teams to beat us, or finish the division on top of us. It’s just something that we carry with us every game."
If the Giants are to nail the critics' mouths shut and repeat, Cruz will have to elevate his game from the stratosphere to the mesosphere. He caught 82 of Eli Manning's passes for a franchise-record 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. He was money in the NFC Championship Game with 10 grabs and 142 yards, and caught the first touchdown of Super Bowl XLVI. Yet the doubts linger like the aftertaste of spicy food. The Giants' run proved they can play with anyone. The same team also required some Coughlin magic in light of terrible losses to the Seahawks and twice to Rex Grossman and the Redskins. Cruz is perplexed as to why the Giants are again the underdogs, but all they need to do is think back to a Week 15, 23-10, loss to Grossman and Co. at home that put their season on life support.
"I don’t know what else we have to do, what else we have to prove," Cruz said. "It seems like every year they doubt us, and don’t put us at the top. It is what it is, we’re going to go out and play our style of football, which is hard-nosed, grind it out, football. At the end of the year we’ll see what happens.
"There is a lot more of my career to accomplish. A lot more for us as a team to accomplish. We’re relatively young, and we understand that our time is now. We want to continue to keep that pressure on ourselves, to keep winning, keep performing at a high level. Our teammates do a good job of keeping everybody humble."
Besides football, Cruz is living the life of an NFL star, sexy dancer and best-selling author. He takes all that in stride, just like these new set of challenges. He has to be Manning's No. 2 man -- No. 1 if Hakeem Nicks' nagging injury woes don't go away. He has to be a mentor to a crop of rookies and second-year players competing for time at wide receiver. Cruz can't just be great in 2012, oh no. He has to be magnificent in the final season of his contract to garner enough ammunition to go head-to-head with Jerry Reese, the hard-nosed, brick-headed and stubborn GM who won the battle of wits with star defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
No problem, says Cruz. He's come too far already to let small details like dollars and cents derail his flight to destiny. The next phase, on the fields of Albany where he was once just another face in the crowd, has officially begun.
"Essentially. I don’t need a contract to stay motivated," Cruz said. "I just want to win, and just the thrill of winning with my team, and winning at home in New York, a place where I grew up, that’s all the motivation I need to play football, and to continue playing the sport I love so I don’t think a contract is something that will motivate me."
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC
The New York Giants will have their first practice of training camp at the University of Albany on Friday. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin spoke to the media on Thursday about the opening of training camp.
Coughlin said about his message to the players for the upcoming season:
"Well, the message is one of improvement. It's one of taking full advantage of setting the bar, and what we were able to do in the last six games of the year, and analyzing the previous 14 to the last six, and saying to ourselves, ‘Which team are we here?' The quality in which we played. The things that I've mentioned the whole offseason, 14 points a game, 1 turnover, big special teams plays. Those have really established the team we can be. An awful lot of emphasis is on improvement. We certainly want to continue with ‘All In,' and ‘Finish,' but we'd also like to come out of the starting gate and sustain, and then we'd like to finish. We would like to establish the kind of consistency that we think we're capable of playing with. Those are all of the challenges that we gave them in this very first meeting we just had."
Coughlin also named four players who will begin camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list: wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, defensive tackle Chris Canty, tight end Travis Beckum and linebacker Clint Sintim. All of these players are on the active PUP list and can be removed at any time if they are ready to practice.
"We were 9-7 last year in the regular season. That’s not good enough. We were a better team than that," Manning said Thursday upon his arrival at UAlbany for the team's training camp. "Obviously we showed that throughout the playoffs. We’ve got to have that urgency, that consistency, throughout the whole season and play our best football for the 16 regular season games."
Here is a little more of Manning talking about handling everything that comes with being the defending champions, an experience he is now going through for the second time.
"It’s having something to prove. Not being satisfied with how last year ended up. But instead, saying we can be better, we can be that good. This past year we showed our potential those last six games of the season, the two regular season and the four playoff games, that we can play with anybody and we can compete and we can play great football," Manning said. "Obviously you always want to be playing your best football at the end of the year. That’s always the goal. But we’ve got to find a way to be playing better football throughout the whole season."
The Giants' first practice is Friday at 1 p.m. ET.
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