Super Bowl-champion Giants report to camp
The Super Bowl-champion New York Giants reported to training camp just the way coach Tom Coughlin wanted - humble, looking to improve and hoping to take the next step toward building a dynasty that others in their own division can only chirp about.
''It's going to be another tough year for us,'' defensive captain Justin Tuck said Thursday as the final players reported to training camp at the University at Albany. ''We know what our schedule looks like. So it's important for us to work as if we didn't make the playoffs. Work as if we didn't win the Super Bowl because all that's going to be needed to get back to where we want to be this year.''
The Giants (13-7) are not the preseason choice to repeat despite having 20 projected starters back who saw significant playing time last season. What people tend to remember is that this was a team that fell to 7-7 after getting thoroughly beaten by last-place Washington late in the season. The season seemed over.
The unexpected happened after that. The Giants turned things around and won their second title in five seasons by winning their final six games, beating the New England Patriots in the title game in February.
The festivities and parties followed, highlighted by a parade through New York's ''Canyon of Heroes,'' a trip to the White House and a much ballyhooed ring ceremony in which Tuck talked about a possibility of starting a dynasty, a topic Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick brought up later in the summer when discussing the Eagles, a team that has never won a Super Bowl.
Tuck defended Vick's right to say that, saying he was just showing a strong belief in his team, and that it wasn't a slight at the Giants.
''We're not a dynasty,'' Tuck said. ''We have some work to do ourselves. Right now, there is not one here (in the division) yet. Hopefully, we can become that first dynasty.''
The Giants are the defending champions, and every player know what that means.
''Until you lose you have to be called the best, right,'' linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka asked. ''It's a new year, it's a new season, but we have the crown and that target on our back and we know it. That's why we're going to look at it that way, not to put ourselves above anybody but just to remember that when we play a team, we're going to get their best game, their best shot.''
Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning insists the Giants need to be more consistent this season, especially in a year where they are coming to camp looking for new starters at right tackle, tight end and possibly at receiver if Hakeem Nicks and the foot he broke in minicamp aren't healed.
''We know we have to improve,'' Manning said. ''We were 9-7 last year in the regular season and that's not good enough. We're a better team than that, and we obviously showed that throughout the playoffs. We've got to have that urgency and consistency throughout the whole season, play our best football through 16 regular-season games. That's what we are going to work on.
''Keep grinding and staying hungry to get better.''
The positive for the Giants is that they showed the league how good they can be when they put it all together, knocking off Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco and New England. The wins against the Packers and 49ers came on the road.
Victor Cruz, who set a single-season franchise record with 1,536 yards receiving, believes this is a team that is hungry enough and motivated to put last season behind it and go out and get another title.
''Coming into the season, nobody is picking us to win,'' Cruz said. ''Everybody is picking us to be last in the division and things of that nature, and that put a chip on our shoulder. We want to come out and prove people wrong, which is essentially what we have to do every year. That chip is definitely still there.''
While most of the players insisted last season was over, Tuck said it was also important to recall the lessons learned last season.
One of the prime ones is that turning it on late, sometimes leaves you a game shy of the postseason.
''I'm curious to see if we come in hungry like I think we will be,'' Tuck said. ''I'm curious to see where our mind is. I know guys have been training. I know guys are physically ready. But it's a different grind when you're on top of the mountain. But we're always the hunters. I don't agree with that. But in the public eye we're not the hunters, we're being hunted this year.
''It's a different mindset when you're in that situation.''