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First year Giants are hazed but helping

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The feet of the Giants rookie Steve Smith have been green for days, discolored by a dye discreetly placed in his socks. A dress shirt in his locker hung stripped of its sleeves. Across the locker room, Plaxico Burress explained.

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Robert Caplin for The New York Times

 

The Giants rookie cornerback Aaron Ross has started this season.

 

“He forgot to bring breakfast sandwiches,” Burress said. “Guarantee he won’t forget that again.”

 

There is a love-torture relationship between veterans and rookies. Inside the locker room, the eight Giants chosen in last April’s N.F.L. draft are treated like, well, rookies, forced to do belittling and sometimes costly tasks for no reason other than tradition.

 

But outside, on the field, they have increasingly become pieces to the team’s sudden championship hopes.

 

All eight made the 53-man roster, which is somewhat unusual in the N.F.L., especially on a team with so many veterans. The first-round choice, Aaron Ross, has started at cornerback for most of the season, and will be trusted to help slow down the Cowboys’ passing attack Sunday. The last of the picks, No. 250 out of 255 players selected, was running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has become a tantalizing contributor in recent weeks.

 

The six others — Smith, defensive tackle Jay Alford, linebacker Zak DeOssie, tight end Kevin Boss, safety Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Adam Koets — seem to have growing roles. They were drafted to be part of a future that has already started.

 

Last Sunday against Tampa Bay — for the first time all season — all eight draft picks were among the 45 players active for a game, each doing something to help defeat the Buccaneers, 24-14.

 

“We’re pleased with them so far,” said Jerry Reese, the first-year general manager. “You can’t put them in the Hall of Fame after one season, but they’ve played well and stepped up.”

 

Reese took over in January from the retiring Ernie Accorsi. He soon cut veteran players with injury histories (left tackle Luke Petitgout and linebackers LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons) and was criticized for adding no premier free agents. The only Giants starter acquired through free agency was linebacker Kawika Mitchell.

 

Reese paid no attention when analysts assigned draft-day grades to the teams, and the Giants, generally, were handed average and below-average marks. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Giants a C-minus. USA Today gave them one out of four stars.

 

“We go to games, we do the scouting,” Reese said of the evaluators. “When they start spending 200 days on the road, then I’ll start paying attention.”

 

Now the Giants are the third-youngest team in the N.F.L.

 

Each rookie class, like fraternity or sorority pledges, bonds through difficult circumstances. They go through rookie-only minicamps and meetings together. They often room together, in apartments and on the road. And they root for each other.

 

“It’s nice to see other rookies do well,” said Boss, who became a starter after Jeremy Shockey broke his leg last month. “Anytime you see a friend doing well, you get excited.”

 

In a misery-loves-company way, they also find comfort in knowing that others are being hazed, too, and most veterans have been through the same thing. Rookies are expected to do menial chores and buy the veteran players an expensive dinner, during which the priciest bottles of wine or spirits are often ordered. DeOssie recently paid the tab — several thousand dollars — for the linebackers to eat and drink at STK, a tony Manhattan steakhouse.

 

Koets, who was active for a game for the first time Sunday against the Buccaneers, had to decorate the offensive linemen’s meeting room for various holidays. He went to party stores to buy supplies and tried to turn a bland room into something more festive.

 

“And then I got fined because I didn’t bring in pumpkins,” Koets said. “So I had to bring in five pumpkins. Thanksgiving was easy — just put stuff on the walls. And then for Christmas, I brought in a seven-foot Christmas tree and decorated it. A live one, the whole deal. It had to be live. No fakes.”

 

The rookies are also expected to bring breakfast sandwiches each Saturday morning. Most pick them up at a delicatessen and pizzeria called Natoli’s in nearby Secaucus.

 

Last week, Smith forgot. So Burress slipped tiny tablets of green dye into Smith’s socks.

 

“As soon as you get wet, as soon as any kind of moisture comes, the dye just goes everywhere,” Smith said.

 

Smith arrived at the team hotel in Tampa, Fla., slipped off his shoes and saw his punishment for forgetting the sandwiches. His socks and shoes were ruined. He could not walk across the carpet without creating footprints, so he laid towels around the room. And he still cannot get the color to fade entirely.

 

“Those are the things you’ve got to deal with,” Smith said.

 

He wore a glum look. It is not easy being a rookie. But the rookies sure seem to make the rest of the team happy.

 

EXTRA POINTS

 

Three Giants sat out Thursday’s practice: Kevin Boss (illness) and cornerbacks Sam Madison (stomach) and Kevin Dockery (hip flexor). Three others were limited: Plaxico Burress (ankle), offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie (ankle) and center Shaun O’Hara (knee). ... Chris Mara, the Giants’ vice president for player evaluation, has withdrawn from consideration for the Atlanta Falcons’ general manager vacancy.

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The last of the picks, No. 250 out of 255 players selected, was running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has become a tantalizing contributor in recent weeks.

 

Steal of the draft by far. It's amazing what stealing a PS2 will do to your draft status. Wasn't he really good and without the character issues was like early second round? Could be Reese's best pick ever.

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Steal of the draft by far. It's amazing what stealing a PS2 will do to your draft status. Wasn't he really good and without the character issues was like early second round? Could be Reese's best pick ever.

 

Yup he woulda gone first day easily. And wasn't it a disagreement? He thought he was borrowing it? Either way he got a talking to by Reese after he was drafted and he knows why he dropped.

 

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Steal of the draft by far. It's amazing what stealing a PS2 will do to your draft status. Wasn't he really good and without the character issues was like early second round? Could be Reese's best pick ever.

That's right he was Mr. PlayStation. :P

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Yup he woulda gone first day easily. And wasn't it a disagreement? He thought he was borrowing it? Either way he got a talking to by Reese after he was drafted and he knows why he dropped.

 

It's fucking ridiculous. Players like TO and Moss get many second chances and a guy who allegedly steals a PS2 is dropped to 250 and almost goes undrafted. It's not like it was armed robbery. You'd think with all the other teams need a running game he would have been picked 4th or 5th round. If Reese drafts like this again we may have real winner at GM finally. Atleast he isn't going to follow in EA's footsteps with gimp signings. That makes him 100% better already.

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