NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — After a long layoff, football is back in East Rutherford.
The Giants were officially open for business Tuesday morning, one day after the players’ union unanimously accepted the owners’ proposal for a collective bargaining agreement, ending the lockout.
“It was a long, exhausting process, but we’re excited to be back,” Giants co-owner John Mara said at team headquarters in the adjacent to New Meadowlands Stadium. “It was a great feeling to come here and see cars in the parking lot. It’s been a long time since I saw that.”
But it’s not all roses for the Giants. According to WFAN’s Paul Dottino, Osi Umenyiora is expected to be a holdout when camp opens on Friday, and veteran offensive linemen Rich Seubert and Shaun O’Hara will be released by the team this week.
While it was not mandatory for players to return to work Tuesday, more than 20 of the Giants currently under contract decided to make an appearance. It turned the gate leading to their facility into a paparazzi-like setting, with photographers and videographers shooting every car that entered the lot, hoping for a glimpse of the returning players.
One videographer stopped a car entering the facility and asked to have the driver roll down the window. The cameraman shot footage of the person, even after the cameraman was told that the driver was not a player, but a member of the media much like him.
Security guards kept the media types on either side of the front gate. It was a scene never before witnessed at the Giants’ practice home.
Mara was the first official to appear and he said he was ready for the free-agent signing frenzy that was about to ensue over the next few days.
“We have to be ready to act quickly on some players,” Mara said. “We also have to be ready to sign some of our own guys who are free agents. I’m not worried that it should be too much of a strain on us, considering that we’ve been sitting around, doing nothing for months. The big point should be allocating the money properly.”
Since training camp will take place this year at the Timex Performance Center and not the University of Albany, Mara said that he was working on a deal that would allow fans to come and watch some of the outdoor practice sessions, courtesy of portable bleachers in the far end zone of the outdoor practice field.
“Most of the practices will be open to the fans,” Mara said. “We’re working on the details.”
However, unlike past years, there will be only one practice session each day. The two-a-day practice routine has been eliminated in the terms of the new CBA, much to the chagrin of the coaching staff and the delight of the players.
“I think it’s going to be beneficial to the players, especially when it comes to staying away from injuries,” veteran defensive tackle Chris Canty said. “I think everyone understands what it takes to get ready to play.”
Canty was in New Jersey, so when the announcement was made that an agreement had been reached, he was raring to go.
“The first thing I did was go to my locker and check out my gear,” Canty said. “It had been a while. I wanted to put my gear in place. It felt great to come back to the office. It was time to get back to work. I knew that they would get a deal done. It was a matter of the two sides sitting down and getting serious. I didn’t think we’d miss a game.”
While Canty was in New Jersey, wide receiver Domenik Hixon was in his native Ohio, continue to rehabilitate a knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season.
“When I heard that they were getting close to an agreement, I jumped in the car and drove here,” said Hixon, who said that his knee has fully healed and he’s ready to return. “It was perfect timing and now I’m here. It’s like the first day of school. A lot of people dread training camp, but not this year. I think we’re all ready and happy to be back. We didn’t have to be here. I just wanted to be around football again.
“I couldn’t wait to go.”
Hixon said that he did have some concerns that the lockout could linger into the regular season.
“At one point, I had my doubts,” he said. “I knew it was business and we had to take care of business. But you never know. I missed all the camps and OTAs, and I needed those to knock the rust off after missing a year.”
Hixon, the front-runner to return to his role as the Giants’ primary kick return specialist, had been in New Jersey earlier in the month to go through some workouts with his teammates at a high school in Bergen County.
“That was good for me,” he said. “Just to get out there and test the knee, see how strong it was.”
Cornerback Terrell Thomas wanted to get back to work, especially after the way the 2010 season ended in disappointment.
“It was tough,” Thomas said. “We knew we were a playoff-caliber team. Everyone knows we should have been in the playoffs and we gave it away. We have to use that as a motivation this year. We have to hit the ground running. I think everyone here is excited to be back in a football mode.
“I knew that I was going to be here all day, as soon as they opened the doors and let me in. We have a veteran team and we should be ready to go.”
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