EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After surveying the Giants- rookie minicamp last weekend and gauging the current climate of the league's defending champions, here is the latest on two of their up-in-the-air, up-for-grabs stars:
Michael Strahan: All signs point to this vibrant defensive end returning for his 16th season with the Giants. The Giants will have no problem paying Strahan the money required for him to return for a final season (at least $6.5 million) and both sides believe he still has another dynamic year of football left.
The primary issue is training camp. Strahan hates it. Always has. The Giants, like every NFL team, want all of their players in camp. The quicker Strahan can find a way to wiggle out of camp or reach an agreement on a mild camp work load, the quicker he will announce his decision to return.
Jeremy Shockey: This is very much a wait-and-see how it develops situation. Shockey is not happy with the Giants and much of it deals with loyalty issues, feeling wanted and needed and being used in his preference as a pass catcher first and then as a blocker. The Giants know Shockey's value on their team and in the market.
Thus, this is a case where the Giants will continue to listen to offers for Shockey, see if he shows up in a month for mandatory minicamp and let the situation unfold. It could still go myriad ways. And both parties still have a huge voice in the outcome.
The Strahan and Shockey talk was much too heady stuff for the 55 players who were with the Giants over the weekend. The seven drafted players, 13 undrafted free agents and 35 street free agents in for tryouts formed a group that tasted their first NFL practices while attempting to make impressions that would last.
There was Alabama receiver D.J. Hall looking very much like his skills could fit the NFL game. There was a "baby" Brandon Jacobs in the form of Graceland College running back Jerome Messam (6-4, 248) who in a crowded backfield just might browbeat his way onto the roster.
This is a unique, talented group of teachers.
Special teams coach Tom Quinn ran into the mix of one kick return during Saturday morning's practice and yelled to his return man "Stay in the wedge!" Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo taught his linemen rushing angles in a step-by-step illustration and then challenged them, "OK, let's run it live!"
Preparation. Clarity. Enthusiasm.
Every NFL coach from every NFL corner will tell you that coaches are teachers. But some coaches are better teachers than others. The best continually find ways to reach their players, to assist them in executing not only the schemes, but also their skills.
Early last season Eli Manning was skittish in the pocket, mechanical in his movements and laboring in his delivery and decision-making. Coaching helped fix that. The defensive line leapt from good to stellar. Coaching aided that. The offensive line grew from a question mark to a strength. Coaching provided a boost.
And anytime an entire draft class contributes to a team's postseason success as did the Giants, that confirms a ton of coaching. A classy level of teaching.
''That's all coaches are, teachers, and I don't know one that does not take pride in that,'' Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. ''You're doing it best when you can take a complex subject in this game, present it to players in simple ways, and they walk out and say, 'that's not hard.' That's when you're encouraged as a coach.''
''I think we all could go a few miles up the road here and teach at JFK High school, football and maybe history, and do a very good job of it,'' Spagnuolo said. ''These kids here in this camp are very green. They are listening to everything you say. So, this kind of reminds you and reveals to you just what kind of teacher you are. Because if they are getting your coaching, your teaching, they should be in the right places even if they don't make the right play. It makes you step back when you see the results and go,
Hey, maybe I better work more on communicating this,' orHey, the way I'm teaching this is working well.' No question, this kind of camp reminds all coaches just how much of their job is teaching.''
Besides the coordinators, the Giants staff has been full of valuable contributors. Among them, Chris Palmer with Manning. Mike Waufle with the defensive line. Pat Flaherty and Dave DeGuglielmo with the offensive line.
Watching the entire coaching staff work at this camp, their confidence, their success, showed in their approach.
''Coach Coughlin, he didn't say much during this camp,'' Messam, the big back, said. ''He always seemed to be off in the back, watching things, jotting down notes on a pad, doing his own thing. But you always know he is there. Watching. His coaches really work for him. My running backs coach, Jerald Ingram, puts things in a very clear way. He's wasn't a yeller. But we all heard him and followed him.''
The coaches are emphasizing team over individuality. They are emphasizing continued discipline in execution. They are fighting complacency on every level.
Now begins the time to develop these younger players to contribute -- especially in December and in January when injuries force depth to surface and when youth can be served.
''This coaching group is very clear, very focused,'' said safety Kenny Phillips, the Giants top draft pick. ''I think the greatest teachers explain and teach but also listen to you. They do that here. I haven't heard a lot of yelling yet.''
And then Phillips smiled. He knows this was the first step on both sides, for the Giants coaches and young players.
''I'll wait till June,'' he said. ''This was hello and get to work. That will be get to work.''