Giants still feel dissed (cont.)
"I've never seen David Copperfield step foot on the football field, so I don't know what magic is,'' said Pierce, ever the quote-meister. "But yeah, that's what everyone thinks. That it was magic. And once you get everyone saying that, everyone rides with it. But every season's different.
"The truth is I hope we don't reproduce the season we had last year, because we were 0-2 last year and we were getting booed at home half the time. I don't want that to happen again.''
Giants coach Tom Coughlin is tapping into his club's underdog mentality once again, at least to a degree. Last year's camp T-shirt message was: "Talk is cheap. Play the game.'' This year: "Talk is cheap. Never satisfied.'' But Saturday morning at camp he told me he doesn't want his team too caught up in the notion that it must prove last year's championship was no fluke.
"Right after the Super Bowl, the power ratings came out and they we were sixth, seventh, eighth, whatever,'' Coughlin said after the close of New York's third practice session of camp. "But the idea there is we don't really have to defend ourselves. That's what happens sometimes. People back you into the corner, and that's not the position I want our guys to take. Just play. Just go to the field and play.''
Not everyone in Blue however is eager to convince the skeptics who linger, and that line seems to start with Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. Why not keep playing the underdog card, given how superbly the Giants utilized it last season? What if New York's locker room is temperamentally disinclined to front-runner status?
"I don't mind going under the radar,'' Manning said. "If we're not the team to beat, or if we're not expected to be the best team next season, it doesn't bother me. This team knows what we accomplished last year. We also know we've got to become a better team. We've got to work on being more consistent and playing at a high level week in and week out.''
Will the magic return for New York this season, or did it run its natural but happy course with the conclusion of that early February confetti shower in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.? There are doubters, of which the "underdog'' Giants are well aware.
"Can we harness what we did in the playoffs and extend it out for the whole season? That's the challenge for us,'' said New York veteran receiver Amani Toomer, nicely summing up the crux of the issue. "We know we have the pieces in place. So I think if we can find a way to kind of get our mojo back, so to speak, and start another run, we'll see where the talent and the team emphasis can take us this season.''
Speaking of echoes of 2007 in Giants camp, No. 1 receiver Plaxico Burress isn't practicing again. Burress has missed the team's first three workouts in camp due to an ankle injury, even though it was just Thursday that Coughlin said Burress would be practicing once a day. Speculation immediately centered on whether Burress's ankle problem was connected to his desire for a new contract -- see his refusal to work out at a June mini-camp in protest of the pace of negotiations.
In reality, while Burress is trying to get the Giants to rip up the final three years of his contract and pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million a year (and agent Drew Rosenhaus was in Albany Friday), he's also trying to ease his way through camp in an effort to get to the regular season as healthy as possible. Burress basically didn't practice at all last year, when he dealt with that lingering ankle injury that refused to heal.
Stay tuned, folks, because while the Giants are pretty darn distraction-free in Albany this year (no Tiki, no Strahan, no Shockey), Plax's state of mind is the one potential landmine that the defending champs have to be aware of.
The Giants' attempt to resurrect the career of quarterback David Carr isn't off to much of a start. Carr, the former No. 1 overall pick in 2002, was placed on the non-football injury list at the start of camp on Thursday, due to a foot strain he suffered working out last week. The Giants signed Carr this offseason as competition for veteran backup Anthony Wright, and then drafted Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson in the sixth round.
Until Carr gets on the field, you can't really say his battle with Wright has begun, but I couldn't help but notice how Coughlin phrased things when I asked him about the backup QB battle Saturday.
"It's right there for David, but he's got to get out there,'' Coughlin said. "We're trying to get him back to what he was. He's very smart and he's picked this (offense) up well. But Anthony's playing pretty well too. He's playing pretty good.''
That sounds like Wright is No. 2 for the time being, with Woodson likely being developed in the No. 3 role. Carr came to New York because of his relationship with Giants quarterback coach Chris Palmer, who was his offensive coordinator his four seasons in Houston (2002-2005). Palmer told me his challenge with Carr is to break him of the habit of trying to escape the pocket at the first sign of a different color jersey. Carr is basically shell-shocked after being sacked a whopping 249 times in his five-year Texans career, and his one-year tenure in Carolina last season ended dismally with a 58.3 passer rating in six games.
Carr's issue is that he has gotten so skittish in the face of any pass pressure that he takes off at the slightest provocation, and then his throwing mechanics are affected by his being in run-for-your-life mode. It could be a very tough habit to break, although Palmer did point out that Carr completed 68.3 percent of his passes in 2006, his final year as Houston's starter and his first in head coach Gary Kubiak's offense.
"David has had a tough experience so far, but he's obviously got the skill set, because he was the first pick in the draft,'' Giants general manager Jerry Reese said Saturday. "But it's between his ears right now. He's got to rebuild some confidence and have some success, and then he'll start to feel better about what he's doing.''