EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Last February, Walter Thurmond and Robert Ayers finished their season as Super Bowl opponents.
Five months later, they are on the same defensive unit and will play their home games at MetLife Stadium, where Thurmond’s Seattle Seahawks trounced Ayers and the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl.
On Wednesday, cornerback Thurmond and defensive end Ayers continued to get acquainted with their new teammates as the Giants conducted their second day of a three-day minicamp.
“I’m getting more comfortable, but I’ve felt comfortable since Day One,” said Thurmond, the fifth-year player from Oregon. “There’s a great group of guys in this room and they’ve been very welcoming. It was an easy transition.”
Thurmond, who started three games for the Super Bowl champs and made 33 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown, said the Giants defensive scheme is more intricate and precise than Seattle’s.
“I’m learning a little more stuff than we did in Seattle,” said Thurmond, who missed most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to injuries. “We were very simple.
“Here, we’re mixing coverages and having exotic defenses. I like it, because it gives me a lot more freedom.”
Ayers, who was born in nearby Jersey City before moving as a teenager to South Carolina, started three games for the Broncos last season. He made 29 tackles and had six sacks. The six-year veteran didn’t plan on returning home to New Jersey as a free agent.
“I didn’t have too many expectations,” said Ayers, who was issued uniform No. 91, the number worn by former Giants standout Justin Tuck. “It’s just where the ball landed. I had a good opportunity to come here and it was just a way of coming home.”
Ayers is also getting used to his new surroundings.
“It is home,” Ayers said. “I’m part of this team now and proud of it. I’m learning how to do things their way. I’m adjusting well. The guys on this team have accepted me well. I’m finding my way. It’s getting better every day.”
Ayers and Thurmond are two of 20 free agents the Giants signed, including cornerback Dominque Rogers-Cromartie, who was also a member of the Broncos.
“I know the Super Bowl left a sour taste in their mouths,” Thurmond said. “There has been a little bit of talking going on between us about it, but it’s just a little bit. They are great teammates and I look forward to playing with them.
“The more we’re out there, sharing our blood and our sweat, the bond gets deeper. We’re like a band of brothers.”
Thurmond knows he can make an impact with the Giants.
“I still have a lot to prove,” Thurmond said. “I want to be an elite cornerback in this league and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
Ayers, a product of Tennessee, knows he will be a major player for the Giants.
“I will make an impact here,” Ayers said. “That’s what I expect. I feel like I can be an every down player, but in reality, no one plays every down anymore. But I know I’m going to play a lot.”
Giants coach Tom Coughlin also expects a lot from the two new acquisitions.
“Both, throughout the course of our work on the field, have stood out from time to time and both are solid players that will contribute,” Coughlin said.
JPP ON A MISSION
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is out to prove his doubters wrong this season.
“I got something to prove this year and shut a whole bunch of people up,” Pierre-Paul said Wednesday.
He had a down year in 2013 coming off back surgery, registering only two sacks. An injured shoulder didn’t help things, either.
“Oh yeah, a lot of people were doubting me but I’m back now to the point I need to be, and I’m very happy,” he said. “And everybody in the locker room is happy, too.”
JPP said he wasn’t able to blast around the edge last season, but now he’s “flying to the ball.”
“It’s not like I didn’t want to go full speed,” he said. “It was just that I couldn’t.”
NOTES: The Giants will conclude the minicamp on Thursday. … TE Larry Donnell became dehydrated in the 90-plus degree heat. He was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center and later released. … First-round draft pick Odell Beckham, who is nursing a hamstring injury, made it to the field for punt and kick return drills. He also caught a touchdown pass from backup QB Ryan Nassib. … RB David Wilson, still recovering from neck surgery that put his career in jeopardy, hasn’t been cleared for serious workouts. He did intense sprints across the field. WR Mario Manningham, who returned to the Giants as a free agent, is rehabbing following a second knee operation.
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