Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC
We aren’t actually going to learn a whole lot until the action picks up later in camp
The New York Giants held their first practice of their 2021 training camp on Wednesday, and it was an odd scene in some ways. No fans in attendance at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. A full media contingent. In-person press conferences and even some one-on-one interviews with players.
Here are a few things we learned.
Ramping up slowly
If you are looking for all sorts of detail on which players had great first practices, which ones appeared to struggle and all of that type of reporting, you’re not going to get it here. At least not today.
Wednesday’s workout was really a glorified minicamp or OTA practice. It was in shorts and t-shirts as the Giants begin a five-day ramp up or acclimation period. Coach Joe Judge said the Giants will practice in shorts and -t-shirts again Thursday, go with shells Friday, Saturday and Monday and then finally don full pads next Tuesday.
As for Wednesday’s practice, much of it was individual work. There were a couple of non-contact team periods held 100 or so yards away from reporters with a gaggle of players blocking the view. So, if anything interesting or noteworthy did happen we didn’t see it.
Bye, bye Benjamin
Kelvin Benjamin is expected to be released by the Giants on Wednesday following an odd incident that resulted in him leaving the practice field.
Odd scene: Kelvin Benjamin walking off the field at the start of practice with Dave Gettleman following him. Benjamin had a conversation with Gettleman and Joe Judge a few minutes earlier pic.twitter.com/ox3doCwxqt
— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) July 28, 2021
COVID-19 vaccine still part of the story
This one just isn’t going away. The protocols are different for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated players, and Judge was again asked on Wednesday about the percentage of Giants players who have received the vaccine.
As he has done consistently, he deflected.
“Look, we have a lot of guys on our team who will make individual choices,” Judge said. “Our job is to educate them and, again, whatever choice they make we just make sure that they’re doing what’s right for the team by following the protocols.”
As for those protocols, here is what Judge said:
“If you’re not vaccinated or fully through the process yet of being vaccinated, you’ve got to wear that Oakley mouth shield over your helmet. When they take their helmets off, they’ve got to put masks on. These are just part of the protocols. We’ve got a number of guys who are waiting to be fully cleared. I know it’ll be easier for them when they get to that process completely, but for right now, we all understand that, look, it is what it is. We’ve got rules and we talk as a team, you have choices. The League and Union afford you the choice of being vaccinated or unvaccinated. Reality is, it’s a lot easier to go ahead and live life as a professional player if you’re vaccinated. If you’re not vaccinated, you just have to follow all the protocols associated with it and it’s our job as a team to enforce those and educate our players along the way.”
First-round pick Kadarius Toney has been released from the COVID-19 Reserve list, but will not practice with his teammates until the Giants are convinced he can fully handle that workload. Until then, Toney will work with the training staff.
“We’ll see where he is physically before we kind of bring him back completely. You know, we have a number of guys in that situation coming off that COVID list and that’s something that we dealt with last year,” Judge said. “Really, we learned a lot last year from the guys coming off. Even when a guy comes off and is asymptomatic and they feel like when they get back to the field they’re ramped up, they’re ready to go, there’s a lot of energy and excitement. They get out there and the truth is when you’ve been in a position where you’ve basically isolated and you’re not working out for a week, 10 days, whatever it may be, that just goes ahead and sets you back in your training.”
Running back Sandro Platzgummer was removed from the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list and participated in practice.
Linebacker Blake Martinez (COVID-19 Reserve list) was not at the practice facility on Wednesday.
In-person? What is this in-person stuff?
Wednesday was the first time Joe Judge met media covering the Giants face-to-face since his introductory press conference in January of 2020. Judge and players, some masked and some not, spoke to media in person. It was actually a normal, yet remarkable scene since Giants players had spoken face-to-face with media since the end of the 2019 season.
“It’s more natural. I mean, look, we’ve said all along whether it’s the fans, whether it’s dealing with the media, whatever it is. Look, I like personal relationships. I’d rather sit out here and look you guys in the eye and talk to you just directly one-on-one than sit there,” Judge said. “Look, the reality is when we do those Zooms, there’s sometimes someone’s talking and there’s so many screens on there, I can’t even look at the face of whoever asked the question. I like to look back at who asked the question and just give them a direct answer.”
The Giants will hold joint practices in Ohio with the Cleveland Browns and Massachusetts with the New England Patriots. Judge said those practices will help in evaluating which players should make up the 53-man roster.
“That’s huge and you kind of go back from our notes last year, kind of getting ready – or last year’s training camp as opposed to this year’s training camp – and we had to invent as many scenarios as possible to evaluate players in competition. I thought we did as good a job as we could’ve done last year with that. There’s something obviously we look back and say, ‘what could we do better going forward?’ But in terms of having competitive practices, that’s always great for the team,” Judge said. “The first thought that’s great, it breaks up the monotony of camp. Instead of bashing each other’s heads in, you get to visit another team and work with them. You get to see different schemes, different players, evaluate your players against someone as a changeup. Maybe a different skillset, talent level then whoever they’ve been working against every day in practice. It gives you more of a team-unifying feel out there. It just ramps up more opportunities to go out there and see them compete and have a true evaluation of them.”