By Paul Dottino
ALBANY, N.Y. – The weather was sunny and clear – as was coach Tom Coughlin’s disposition and mission statement- during the opening day of training camp.
“The thing that we’re going to have to do is obviously work our way through the dog days of two-a-days and find out what we’re all about where we’re tired and when we’re mentally and physically pushing it right up to the limit – and then go through the experience of playing games together. Once we get a handle on that, I think we’ll truly know the type of team that we have.”
All of the Giants who participated in the conditioning drills to open camp came through them fine, although Kevin Boothe (pectoral), Ahmad Bradshaw (feet), Kenny Phillips (knee), and Keith Bulluck (knee) were held out and Gartrell Johnson struggled on his final gasser.
Here are a few notes from the first practice of the summer:
• Derek Hagen made the play of the day when he beat Antrel Rolle down the right sideline to catch a 50-yard bomb from Eli Manning.
• Rookie punter Matt Dodge was an inconsistent today as he was during the spring. He waffled his first three punts, then boomed four of his final six.
• Rolle, Aaron Ross, Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss and Adam Jennings were on punt return duty.
• Jonathan Goff ran with the first team at MLB, with Keith Bulluck limited.
• Mathias Kiwanuka shared reps at right DE with Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul was at left end with the second unit.
• Terrell Thomas ran with the first team at RCB with Ross on the second team.
• Gerris Wilkinson was running at backup weak-side LB with rookie Phillip Dillard in the middle.
Here are some odds and ends from the first interview session of camp:
• Kenny Phillips insists he has no doubt that he’ll be ready for opening day, even though he’ll be held out of the first week of camp. He’s going to keep his schedule to himself but claims he’ll be ready to practice soon, explaining he “feels great.”
• Antrel Rolle says of camp – “This is the time to make mistakes.” He said the game is 90 percent mental, so bookwork is the top priority at camp. Also said he thinks this re-tooled defense has enough talent on it that “15 or 16” guys could be starters.
• Keith Bulluck said he’s been so busy going back-and-forth between Tennessee and New York that he’d only spoken with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on the phone – and was looking forward to today’s meetings.
• Eli Manning gave his usual vanilla outlook but went out of his way to praise Ramses Barden. “He had a really good spring,” and cited Barden’s smarts, understanding of the offense and how he provide a big target with large hands.
• CB coach Peter Guinta. He said this is the deepest group of corners he’s had to work with on the Giants. He said Aaron Ross has a chance to compete with Terrell Thomas, although all three front-line corners will play a ton, anyway.
• Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. He said his players have been “very attentive” and have a lot of pride, when asked about his confidence in being able to rebuild the defense. He gave a short list of benchmarks , or things he wants to see in camp – “alignment, assignment, execution and are we having fun?”
• OL coach Pat Flaherty. He insists LG Rich Seubert can compete to keep his starting job and he’s not worried about him being limited as he tries to stay in the lineup. He said Seubert’s desire could pull him through another season as a starter. Yet, the team will start giving David Diehl some snaps at LG because the best five offensive linemen will start and they need to take a look at William Beatty at LT. Flaherty hinted that he’d like to have the starters determined midway through the preseason.
• S coach David Merritt. He doesn’t know how long it will take Kenny Phillips to get back to form because the medical folks haven’t cleared him yet. He also predicted that newcomer John Busing will earn a spot on the roster, citing his experience and strong play on special teams.
• LB coach Jim Herrmann. He said he’ll take it day-by-day and practice-by-practice to see how newcomer Keith Bulluck fits into the competition at MLB, saying Bulluck should be able to make a quick transition.