From the return of Cruz to news regarding JPP’s hand and a bizarre autograph incident, the New York Giants had plenty to show at camp.
By Bryan Pol
Despite the busiest MLB trading deadline in recent memory, the NFL has managed to grab serious headlines.
First, the NFL upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his ties to Deflategate. Brady plans to fight the suspension in court, leading to an inevitable media frenzy sure to encroach upon the regular season despite the fact the story should have died six months ago.
Secondly, there were the New York Jets, whose fan base hilariously trolled the Patriots at training camp, and whose star defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was reported for resisting arrest, endangering a child, possessing a controlled substance, and traveling in excess of 140 MPH by car, twelve days after receiving a four-game suspension of his own for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Thirdly was the mammoth Russell Wilson contract. Earlier Friday, the Seattle quarterback signed a four-year, $87.6 million extension that includes a $31 million signing bonus, figures sure to be eclipsed once Andrew Luck signs a contract of his own with Indianapolis.
News of the Wilson contract seeped into Friday’s press conference with Eli Manning, who played the story off in hopes that a deal of his own, albeit considerably less lucrative, can be struck sometime soon. Manning, deflecting talks of his contract altogether, stated, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News via Twitter, “I’m not interested in comparisons about how much money we’re making.” Rather, the Giant star quarterback much preferred to talk about the weapons on offense that surround him, and the fact that his offensive line, according to the New York Giants on Twitter, was regarded as having a “big, mean, nasty streak” in them, in Eli’s own words.
NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones captured more of Eli’s presser, by which the quarterback remarked, “We need everyone to play up to their capabilities.”
Of those weapons, former Green Bay star receiver James Jones, who caught 73 passes for 666 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2014 with the Raiders, is now reunited with Giant offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, signing a one-year deal with New York on Thursday, according to NFL.com. Jones joins a wide receiver core that has Odell Beckham, Jr., whom Bill Barnwell of Grantland placed at no. 36 of his NFL 100 Rankings (whom Barnwell also claimed “inspired [the most] wild gesticulating and shouting in NFL summer meetings”), Rueben Randle, Corey Washington, Jr., and a revitalized Victor Cruz, who entered his first training camp press conference sporting a no. 45 Michael Jordan jersey, hoping to channel MJ’s own historic comeback in ’95 after a year away from the NBA to pursue baseball.
The receiving corps look primed and ready to devastate the league, with head coach Tom Coughlin noting how pleased he was to see Cruz “clear his first hurdle” in jumping up from the turf after drawing contact off a sideline catch in Friday’s practice, during which he and Beckham, dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, were taking snaps with the first team offense. The aforementioned Jones was nowhere to be found, however, on the sidelines, as his contract was not yet made official. Promising though that tight end Larry Donnell, out during spring OTAs with an Achilles injury, was seen taking snaps with the first team offense on Friday, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
Joining the running back corps is Shane Vereen, formerly of the defending champion New England Patriots, a back “hungry for more” titles with New York. In his press conference today, the 26 year old Vereen noted “similarities in pedigree” between Eli and Brady, and would not succumb to talk of Deflategate, choosing instead to focus on what he can bring to an attack that already features promise in second-year back Andre Williams and veteran Rashad Jennings. Vereen will feature mightily in the passing game, as he averaged roughly 49 receptions, 437 yards, and three touchdowns in the passing game alone in 2013 and 2014. He has the capacity to go long on certain passes, as he has managed six receptions of 20+ yards and two receptions of 40+ yards in those last two seasons, as well. A “change of pace” back, Vereen provides an X-factor in mold of a lesser LeSean McCoy as far as the passing attack is concerned. The Giants under Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have never relied on a back quite like Vereen. He will be a blessing in more ways that one to Ben McAdoo’s offense.
On another “playing” field, however, many miles away from East Rutherford in South Florida, were exclusive photos taken of Jason Pierre Paul’s first public appearance after damaging his hand in a fireworks accident in early July. The right hand, missing an index finger after a procedure to salvage the hand, was heavily bandaged up, somewhat proving that JPP, whom returning defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo desperately needs, is nowhere near ready to join the Giants on the gridiron. Prior to the incident, Pierre Paul was set to make $14 million this year, after being franchised, with a chance at an extension. His financial status and future with the organization are very much unclear at present, which does not bode well for the Giants’ shot at returning to the postseason for the first time in three years. Worse yet is news that JPP cannot have use of his hand at all during the recovery process, according to ESPN.com.
Despite the Jones acquisition, a luxury at this point, and Eli’s touting of his offensive line on Friday, a gaping hole remains to Eli’s left with the injury to tackle Will Beatty, who may not come back to Big Blue until November at the earliest. It does not help that Bill Barnwell berated Beatty’s ineptitude in his “NFL All-Bad Contracts Team” column earlier this week. Such uncertainty and relative incompetence may force Eli to continue throwing shorter passes, opening up the slot position up the middle again that Cruz left vacant when injured against Philadelphia last October. The question remains: will Cruz be healthy enough to reclaim the position? By his estimation, he is “93 percent ready,” remarkable given the nature of his knee injury.
Despite the news of a strength many already knew existed regarding Big Blue’s offense, the shock of JPP’s injury still resonated, as did an incident occurring moments after Friday’s open practice. As Giants101.com reports, a section of bleachers collapsed with fans rabidly lying in wait to retrieve autographs from players, among them, Beckham and Cruz. In the report, Tom Rock of Newsday witnessed a woman having a seizure, who was stepped over by a mob of fans looking to score signatures. Furthermore, a young girl of 12, donning a body brace to heal a broken back, was pushed against a fence. In tears, the girl was whisked away by an ambulance at the demands of her desperate father. Another set of young children were also pushed against the fence, forcing the wide receiver tandem to be “whisked away like secret service agents.” In light of the incident, Giants101.com reported on its Facebook page that the New York Giants have altered their autograph policy, “limiting all autographs to children under 12 years of age.”
What does the rest of New York Giants’ training camp hold? Hopefully, there is more pleasant news and less stories of the chaotic persuasion. That said, stay tuned for more updates on the Giants’ continued progress in the month of August.
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