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Giants get final break before beginning title defense

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As Tom Coughlin walked off the field Friday as the New York Giants ended a three-day minicamp, he had a smile as big as the one he had while holding the Super Bowl trophy four months ago.

Don't get the wrong impression though -- everything wasn't OK with the Super Bowl champions.

Disgruntled tight end Jeremy Shockey never made it out of the locker room to watch any of the mandatory three-day minicamp, and leading receiver Plaxico Burress still refused to practice until he gets a new contract.

What made Coughlin so happy was seeing his grandson, Cooper Snee, being held in the arms of his father, guard Chris Snee, who then handed the child off to grandpa, the coach.

It was the perfect ending to what Coughlin felt was a good minicamp. It will be last time the Giants work out until reporting to training camp at the University at Albany on July 24.

That's the day the Giants' open defense of their title, although Coughlin will say the work has already started.

That's the message he gave the team as it left for vacation.

"The thing that I have told our team, and if you are really trying to settle on some kind of theme, is that we are not satisfied with winning," Coughlin said. "We are not satisfied with that. We have a lot of things to improve upon, and that is the attitude that we are going to take into camp."

Obviously, the Giants need to get their personnel problems straightened out before the season opens at home on Sept. 4 against the Washington Redskins.

Shockey and Burress are both unhappy.

Shockey, who broke his leg in December and missed the playoffs, is miffed at the team. The emotional seven-year veteran felt left out in the postseason and now wants a bigger role, and he refused to talk to reporters during the minicamp.

Burress, who did talk, wants more money. The man who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl win over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots is due to make $10.5 million over the next three years. That's paltry compared to the three-year, $27 million deals recently signed by Terrell Owens of Dallas and Randy Moss of New England.

Drew Rosenhaus, who represents both Shockey and Burress, came to the final day of minicamp.

"I think the focus should be that we are in discussions with the team, Plaxico was here," Rosenhaus said. "I think we're headed in the right direction. I'd rather not get into anything that might be negative."

Rosenhaus hopes everything is settled for both players by next month.

While Super Bowl teams have struggled in recent years just to get back to the playoffs, most of the Giants believe this is a team that can break the trend.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride noted that the players for the most part are humble.

"I don't think there is ever a sense of 'Hey, we are this dynasty and everyone has to fear us,'" he said. "They realize the only reason we did anything was because they probably out-worked the average team and, because of that, we were able to make some plays."

Quarterback Eli Manning added this is a team that has worked just as hard since winning the organization's third Super Bowl.

"I think we are happy about last year, but we are not content with where we stand as a team and what we can do as an offense, as a team," the Super Bowl MVP said. "We know that we can become a better group of players. We can have a better season."

However, it will be a season in which the Giants will have to win without defensive end Michael Strahan, who retired Tuesday as the NFL's fifth all-time leader in sacks.

"He is a special, special player, special man, and maybe it will take three guys to replace Michael," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.

The bottom line is the Giants will have major challenges next season.

"It's been a great offseason, and we have had plenty of congratulations and ceremonies, but I think everyone is thinking about next year," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "We owe it to our teammates to be ready. We don't want to get shown up out there."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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