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Players Arrive & Camp Opens

By Michael Eisen, Giants.com

 

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AUGUST 2, 2009

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants’ full 80-man squad was at the University at Albany for today’s first training camp meetings, but not everyone will be on the field for the first two practices tomorrow.

 

Coach Tom Coughlin announced that linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackle Fred Robbins will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). Another defensive tackle, Rocky Bernard, is on the non-football injury list (NFI).

 

NFI is for an injury sustained away from the team, not when the player is under the team’s supervision. PUP is for an injury that occurs on the team’s watch.

 

Boley’s inability to practice is not unexpected. The weakside linebacker, who was signed as a free agent on Feb. 28, underwent surgery in late June to repair a torn labrum in his hip. At that time, the team announced that a full recovery would take 8-10 weeks.

 

Coughlin also knew Robbins might not be available for the start of camp. Robbins, a 10-year veteran who is entering his sixth season with the Giants, had knee surgery early in the offseason and is still rehabilitating.

 

“I know Fred has been running, but there’s a difference between running straight ahead and running while cutting and maneuvering,” Coughlin said.

 

Robbins’ replacement on the starting defense might have been Bernard, who joined the Giants the same day as Boley. But Bernard, who missed the team’s June minicamp with a shoulder injury, is not healthy enough to take the field.

 

Bernard left the offseason program with the shoulder situation that has since improved. But he suffered a hamstring injury about two weeks ago while working out on his own. Bernard notified the Giants, who sent him to see a doctor near his home in Seattle, so he could get it diagnosed and treated. The Giants thought it would be further along than it is right now, which is why Coughlin expressed “surprise” that Bernard is not field-ready.

 

Barry Cofield, who teams with Robbins to form one of the NFL’s best run-stopping tackle tandems, also had offseason knee surgery, but is ready to practice. Coughlin would not say if Cofield will be limited to one practice a day.

 

Third-year pro Jay Alford will likely take over as the first-team tackle next to Cofield. Chris Canty, who joined the Giants on the same weekend as Boley and Bernard, plays both tackle and end. Jeremy Clark, Anthony Bryant and Leger Douzable are other tackles currently on the roster.

 

Without Boley, the Giants can line up three players who started for them at weakside linebacker last season – Gerris Wilkinson, Bryan Kehl and Chase Blackburn. First-year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said the situation there is fluid.

 

“The first practice it will be Bryan (with the first team), but we may flip-flop it in the afternoon practice,” Sheridan said. “We don’t want to give anybody the impression the job is theirs. We’re going to make it very competitive and those guys know that. All those guys have strengths, but none of them has nailed down a starting position. Bryan has started a few games and Gerris has started a few games in his career, but neither of them has nailed it down. Chase has probably played more, especially recently. We’ll rotate the three of them in there.”

 

Blackburn started nine of the last 10 games, including the postseason game against Philadelphia, and had more tackles than Wilkinson and Kehl combined. Of course, Wilkinson and Kehl both suffered injuries during the season.

 

“Chase probably graded out as well as any of our linebackers the whole second half of the year,” Sheridan said. “At the time, it (stepping in as the starter) may have just been by default. But he did an outstanding job. We could line Chase up at the starting WIL and sleep well at night. He’ll execute, perform and make plays.”

 

Boley, meanwhile, is rehabbing his injured hip.

 

“He’s breaking his back to get healthy,” Sheridan said.

 

The other Boley complication is that even if he is healthy, he cannot play the season opener vs. Washington because of an NFL suspension.

 

“We know we won’t have him for the first game,” Sheridan said. “So we’re practicing and planning accordingly. Those other guys will do a great job.”

 

*Because Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress are no longer with the team and Hakeem Nicks was the first-round draft choice, the wide receivers have been under scrutiny throughout the offseason.

 

“A lot of attention has been spent on our receiving corps,” Coughlin said. “I thought our young guys came in and did a good job in the spring, and hopefully that will carry over to the fall. Let’s get on the field and find out about this, there’s no sense in just talking about it - let’s just do it.”

 

Eli Manning was asked again today if the team has enough talent without Burress.

 

“I think we have a lot of playmakers on this team,” said Manning, echoing statements he made in the spring. “Some guys are going to have to step up. Given the opportunity, I think we have a number of guys who can do some great things for us. It’s just a matter of us getting our timing down. We have to see who’s going to step up the most and be ready to start the season and who’s going to be our playmaker.”

 

One of those players is third-year pro Steve Smith, who led the Giants with 57 catches last season and is expected to be a full-time starter in 2009.

 

“I came in with two vets here and now they’re gone, so I think it’s my time to step in,” Smith said. “I need to make plays and go out there and try to minimize mistakes and make a lot of plays and get on the same page as Eli.” Asked what people have yet to see from him on the field, Smith said, “My breakaway ability and my ability to go up top and make big plays.”

 

A player expected to contribute those kinds of plays is Nicks, the 29th overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft. He signed his first pro contract yesterday.

 

“It was really important for me (to be here for the beginning of camp),” Nicks said. “That was one of my main focuses. Coming in, getting here on time, and contributing to the team. I just want to hit the playbook tonight and be ready for tomorrow.”

 

*Although the Giants still have both last year’s leading punt returner (Domenik Hixon) and kickoff returner (Ahmad Bradshaw), the coaches will look at numerous candidates for those jobs this month.

 

“It’s wide open right now,” special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. “So it will be based on how the roster shakes down really, but we’ve got a lot of capable guys and that’s the good thing. Punts, Domenik has done it, Ahmad has done it. We really took a good long look at Sinorice (Moss) and Mario (Manningham) in the spring in regards to punts. Then Danny Ware is a guy we would like to get some reps in kickoff returns because that’s something he did in preseason last year and we think he could add a lot with his size and his speed. … Hakeem Nicks has even done it when he was in college and we took a look at him in the spring.”

 

Quinn said he is not opposed to rotating his returners.

 

“I don’t mind that at all, because that means you’ve got a talented roster,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been able to draw from the last couple of years is having some talent, to reach down and get some guys. I don’t think we’re wasting a roster spot. Sometimes when you have a designated guy that just returns kicks and doesn’t do anything else, it really affects the other positions on your team.”

 

*For the second year in a row, Coughlin was unable to conduct his annual camp-opening conditioning test. Instead the team went indoors for a complete stretching and warm-down routine…The Giants will practice twice tomorrow, first at 9 a.m. and then again at 3:40 p.m.

 

http://www.giants.com/news/headlines/story.asp?story_id=38686

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