Eli Manning working to bring new Giants faces together
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Eli Manning spent some of the Giants' opening day of their offseason program greeting the free agents he had only spoken to over the phone in the previous weeks.
The quarterback said Monday that helping to acclimate new teammates to their new surroundings was important in creating a winning team chemistry. That's especially pertinent for general manager Jerry Reese's March 9 veteran haul of potential defensive game changers Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and linebacker Keenan Robinson,
It mattered little to him whether they were defensive additions or offensive ones.
''I called a lot of guys weeks ago, just to introduce myself and see if they needed anything,'' Manning said. ''I tried to reach out to those guys today, just try to figure out how to help them, help the team get better.
''Just to get to know them on a personal level because I think, as a group, the closer the friendship and that bond is, the better off we'll be.''
The newcomers also included a trio of veterans the team signed Monday for depth and competition purposes: Tampa Bay running back Bobby Rainey, Miami linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, and Tennessee offensive tackle Byron Stingily.
Manning said getting the offseason program off to a good start is just the first step in improving from a 6-10 season. He appraised the overall attitude of his teammates as enthusiastic and expectant, especially in light of a new coaching staff that includes new strength coach Aaron Wellman, and his new quarterbacks coach, Frank Cignetti, Jr.
The players will work mostly with Wellman over the first two weeks because coaches are not allowed to drill them during the program's first phase.
The Giants have the most direct familiarity with Rainey, who played under offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan in 2013 when Sullivan served in the same capacity with Tampa Bay. Rainey broke a franchise-record 80-yard touchdown run that year.
Entering his fifth season, the 5-foot-8, 212-pound Rainey has played in 46 games with 11 starts with Baltimore, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay. He has three 100-yard rushing games in a career that includes 249 carries for 990 yards and six touchdowns, 51 catches for 377 yards and two touchdowns.
Rainey's biggest value comes on special teams, where he owns a 9.5-yard average on 36 punt returns and a 24.7-yard average on 32 kickoff returns.
Sheppard, 6-2, 249, has the most starting experience with 45 for Buffalo, Indianapolis, and Miami. He didn't miss a game his first two seasons after the Bills made him their third-round pick out of LSU in 2011. But it wasn't until last season with Miami that he managed career highs with 102 tackles and 13 tackles for losses in 13 starts.
He also started two playoff games for the Colts in 2013, getting 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Stingily was Tennessee's sixth-round pick in 2011 and started nine of his 20 games between 2012 and 2014. The 6-5, 318-pound tackle was waived at the end of last year's training camp. The Steelers signed him Oct. 19, but he never played a game for them.
Starting guard Justin Pugh termed Monday a first start, from Tom Coughlin successor Ben McAdoo's opening address to the players to their introduction to the new strength and weight program.
''It's definitely new,'' Pugh said. ''The weight room is all brand new. We've got new things up on the wall.
''We've got a ways to go, but it was a very, very productive, good first day.''
Manning was just happy to get back to work.
''It's the start of a new season, another opportunity,'' Manning said. ''You're excited. It's been a long break. The guys sense we have a good squad, but we've got to get better. We've got to do the little things better and be committed.
''We've got to make sure we keep that. It's easy to do on the first day. But the fourth week of training camp you've got to have the same intensity and desire to get better. That's what we've got to keep doing.''
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