EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Now that the New York Giants have finished minicamp, the goal is to get healthy so they can concentrate on fixing the shortcomings that led to last season's .500 record.
The first objective could be the hardest, however. Several players expressed a cautious optimism Thursday after the team's final workout of a three-day minicamp that training camp would allow the team's existing talent to prove itself.
"The word to me is redemption," defensive end Justin Tuck said as he headed off for a six-week vacation before the Aug. 1 reporting date at the University at Albany. "We've got to redeem ourselves from last year, so I hope everybody keeps that in mind.
"I hate saying this, but we have a lot of talent. We do. And hopefully, this year, we have a lot of healthy talent."
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That could be an issue. With the season-ending injury to return specialist Domenik Hixon during Tuesday's workout in the new, $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium, the Giants are already in search of a kickoff and punt return specialist.
They may have to wait for third-year safety Kenny Phillips who, despite glowing reports about his rehabilitation from left knee micro-fracture surgery, has yet to do any football-related activity.
In addition, Tuck, running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, and tight end Kevin Boss spent all or part of minicamp on the sideline.
But coach Tom Coughlin said he saw some encouraging signs during minicamp, especially from some of the younger players like fourth-round middle linebacker candidate Phillip Dillard, second-year offensive lineman Will Beatty, and first and second-round defensive linemen Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph.
"The biggest thing I'm interested in now is the ability of our guys to bridge the mandatory minicamp into training camp," Coughlin said. "I'm really excited about our preseason. It's a very challenging preseason. A lot of the tests will be in areas we've deemed we want to be tested in."
Filling Hixon's role on the return teams will be imperative. Cornerback Aaron Ross and wide receiver Sinorice Moss are considered possibilities for the punt return job, along with third-round safety Chad Jones and Bradshaw.
Jones is a particularly intriguing possibility considering his alternate career as a pitcher at LSU.
"Anyone that has baseball experience, they track the ball very, very well," special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. "So he's always in very good position."
Middle linebacker is also a key area where the Giants made strides in minicamp. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell praised the minicamp work of veteran candidate Jonathan Goff, as well as fourth-rounder Phillip Dillard.
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"He's shown the game's not to big for him," Fewell said of Dillard.
On offense, the Giants need to get younger players like Nicks, wide receiver Ramses Barden, and running back Andre Brown to step up to the next level. For Nicks, coming off a tremendous rookie season of 47 catches for 790 yards and six touchdowns, it will mean spending four days with Eli Manning at the quarterback's New Orleans home for some private workouts.
Nicks worked little in the offseason due to toe surgery.
"We've got to make up for lost time with him," Manning said. "I want to get him into a live practice where he's got to make decisions and reads and can work on his releases."
They will have six weeks to rest and heal.
Notes: With Mario Manningham excused from the workout for personal reasons and Bradshaw out injured, Sinorice Moss, Aaron Ross, Antrel Rolle, and Derek Hagan were fielding punts. ... Quinn said both rookie punters, seventh-rounder Matt Dodge and Australian Rules transplant Jy Bond, are doing a good job holding for placekicker Lawrence Tynes. "Lawrence is doing a good job telling them where he wants it," Quinn said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press