WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

April 29, 2018 at 10:44 pm.

–Any hopes by the tabloids of turning the offseason into a free-for-all concerning Odell Beckham Jr.’s status with the Giants were crushed when the star receiver, still recovering from ankle surgery, decided to show up for most of the offseason program thus far, including the recently concluded three-day minicamp.

Despite the firestorm that was created at the league meeting at the end of March in which Beckham was at various times reportedly on the trading block, head coach Pat Shurmur worked overtime to build a trusting two-way relationship with the star receiver.

It’s like any relationship – we constantly communicate,” Shurmur said. “We had a great conversation (Monday). He came in and we sat down as we were getting ready for this minicamp so we could talk about what we were trying to get accomplished. We’ve spoken on the phone, we text — it’s just like any relationship. We’re very honest and open with one another and we communicate frequently.”

As part of that communication and trust, Shurmur has been able to get a verbal commitment from Beckham regarding the offseason program which, although doesn’t include 100 percent daily attendance — Beckham still spends part of his time training in Los Angeles — does include updates and information exchanged that allows both Beckham’s L.A. trainers and the team to remain abreast of where he is in his progress.

Speaking of that, the receiver, whom Shurmur initially said during the Combine probably wouldn’t be ready for any football drills until the summer, did some individual drills with the team on the final day of its voluntary minicamp.

“It’s terrific,” Shurmur said of the surprise appearance by No. 13 during the unit drills. “We all know what a great player he is. He is making progress to getting fully cleared. You can see he looks lively and is involved. He is taking all the mental reps that he can. It is great. It is great to see all of our players out there and all of them healthy as we get ready for September.”

Shurmur, who didn’t hesitate in responding affirmatively when asked if Beckham would be on the team in the fall, stopped short of promising a larger role for Beckham later in the spring when the team reconvenes for its OTAs, but it sounds as though there is no rush to put Beckham out there before he’s physically ready.

“He is going through the process just like all the other players,” Shurmur said. “That is the plan. Learn what he can in whatever way he can and try and get him ready to go so when he is back out there full he is ripping and roaring.”

Beckham did not speak to the media during the three-day minicamp, other than to offer a few quick greetings to those who passed him in the halls of the team’s facility.

–With the Giants having passed on the opportunity to draft a quarterback in the first round, second-year man Davis Webb will continue to have a golden opportunity this year to solidify his spot as the heir to starter Eli Manning’s throne.

Webb’s quest to inspire confidence in the team’s new general manager (Dave Gettleman) and head coach (Pat Shurmur) began last week with his rather impressive showing at the team’s three-day voluntary minicamp held before the draft.

Splitting reps with Eli Manning, Webb displayed a strong air of confidence in getting the team in and out of the huddle, made mostly smart decisions about where to go with the ball, and displayed significantly improved mechanics versus what he showed last summer as a rookie, particularly in terms of his footwork and in throwing the ball while on the move.

“Yeah, I didn’t get a chance to play last year, so just kind of going off practice tapes and asking people around me that were on the staff last year what I needed to work on this offseason. And then our new coaching staff with Coach Shurmur and Coach (offensive coordinator Mike) Shula, had (TEST Football Academy Trainer) Tony (Racioppi) in the area and just kind of worked on two or three really big things and just focused on that and make them no longer weaknesses, more strengths, and I think I did that,” he said.

His success at the minicamp, which included tossing four touchdowns on the second of the three-day camp, two of which were perfectly placed balls to tight end Jerell Adams and receive Travis Rudolph in the corner of the end zone, helped boost Webb’s confidence, already at a high level, to a new level.

“I don’t have to prove anything,” Webb, the Giants’ third-round pick last year, said during a break in the minicamp when asked what he had to prove to continue his quest as the potential heir to Manning’s throne.

“All I’ve got to do is show what I’ve got and that’s up to them. I try to do the best I can in the meeting rooms, the weight workouts, the practices especially. Just kind of show what I have and let them make a decision. It’s out of my control and I’m not really too worried about it, I promise. I just work hard and I know I’m going to get a chance someday.”

Right now, his chance is with the Giants, and Shurmur has liked what he’s seen so far.

“With Davis, you see his size, he’s got excellent arm strength. I think he moves around real well and it’s just a matter of just smoothing things out,” he said.

Webb, who admitted that he’d be tuned into the first round of the NFL Draft, said that besides learning about what it takes to be a pro, the biggest difference for him between last year and this year so far has been upping the ante in terms of the details that come with playing the position.

“The first thing is, I learned a system last year and I kind of tried to master it as much as I can and now you’ve got to flush it out of your system a little bit. There’s some carryover, but not much,” he said.

“And then you have to kind of learn a new system and re-grow again. So, right now I’m just trying to do what the coaches are asking us to do, be coachable and complete the ball to the open guy. Coming out of college, coming into an NFL system, being in the huddle is a little different, but now I feel so much more confident.”

Although Webb’s place on the depth chart seems secure for now, that’s not to say that at some point during what’s left of his four-year rookie deal he won’t face competition in the form of a draft pick who ends up chosen higher than he was.

If that happens, Webb said he’d be fine with it.

“Mr. Gettleman gets paid a lot and he’s very high up on the chain and his job is to make a decision that’s going to help the Giants,” Webb said. “As long as it helps the New York Football Giants, that’s all I’m about. I’m a team guy, I’ve said that last year, I’ll say it again. My No. 1 goal is to be the best teammate I possibly can be.”

–The Giants concluded the third week of the offseason program with a three-day voluntary minicamp.

Besides using that camp to gauge how far the players are in their understanding of their future roles, head coach Pat Shurmur and his staff also set out to accomplish another very important, yet underrated objective: build chemistry in the locker room that is not only filled with a lot of new players but also new coaches.

So far so good.

“I think it has been terrific,” Shurmur said. “You come into a new building, you hear stories about the players and situations, things going on. I see a group of guys out here that are very competitive and very prideful. Their attention to detail is great. We gave them really a lot of information and they were able to come out here and execute at a high level, which is tremendous. It does not really matter what you know in the classroom, it is that you come and put it together out here on the field. They did that great.”

Last year, it was well documented that the chemistry in the locker room left something to be desired. Between some players not getting along, such as the spat between safety Landon Collins and cornerback Eli Apple, and the multiple suspensions given to cornerbacks Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins which were for various acts of insubordination, it’s probably safe to say that the Giants were the hands-down leaders in off-field distractions.

Shurmur has sought to alleviate all that strife and make sure it doesn’t pop up again. When he was hired, he spoke about building relationships. Thus far, he has been true to his word with getting to know as many of the players as he possibly can and, above all else, refraining from discussing matters expressed to him in private, even in situations like with absent tackle Ereck Flowers, who is reportedly on the trading block.

Shurmur has also been more of a hands-on coach instead of a distant supervisor who barks out orders or screams and yells if something goes astray. During the three-day camp, he was frequently seen giving instruction to various player groups and giving pats on the back to guys for jobs well done.

“I’m a career coach,” Shurmur said. “My real joy is when I am out here with the players. If there is information or something I can help them with, I like talking about it. We are very fortunate that we have an outstanding staff. I do like to watch them do their work. They are excellent teachers. If there is something I can add with any position or any player, I will try and do it.”

The attempts have been well received so far, and are heading in the right direction, according to tight end Evan Engram.

“Oh, definitely. It’s definitely a process,” he said. “We’re just diving into this playbook and just getting things going, but we came out here and we competed together, we had fun together, we kept guys injury free, so it was definitely a good three days of working together and starting to put this thing together.”

With the team off for draft weekend, Shurmur’s next step will be to make sure that the progress made in building team unity and that chemistry continues.

“You can tell that these guys care about one another. Now we just have to keep trying to create an environment where these guys keep getting better and better every day,” he said.

–Giants running back Saquon Barkley has potential superstar written all over his name. However, the junior-eligible, Bronx-born Barkley is ready to come in to East Rutherford with zero expectations about receiving the rock-star treatment his college production would seemingly attract.

“I want to earn everything,” Barkley said via conference call with reporters. “If I’m not doing what’s needed to be done to get that starting job, than I don’t want it. I’m a big believer in competition and I know there’s a lot of great backs there already.

“I believe Jonathan Stewart is there and I’m looking forward to being able to pick his brain and learn from him. He’s been in the NFL for a long time and I know there’s a lot of things that I can learn. But no, I don’t expect to start; I expect to come in and work and earn my job.”

That shouldn’t be too hard for Barkley considering he’s joining a Giants running game that, although it has different faces, has not been much of a factor since 2012.

Barkley, the Giants believe, can change all that.

“I have not seen a guy like this in a long time and I have been around a long time,” said Giants general manager Dave Gettleman.

“The kid is so unique because of his size and his speed. He has the ability to string together multiple moves. He has the ability to step on the gas. He can do what we call cross the formation. There are a lot of good backs in this league, but they don’t have the speed to go across the formation. We all know he can catch the heck out of the rock. He is smart in blitz pickup; he sees it. That is probably the biggest issue with all these young rushers now. He is powerful, he runs through tackles and he runs through hits.”

Gettleman spoke about how a player chosen in the first round has to make the others around him better and believes that Barkley has that capability.

“If you think about it, this kid makes our quarterback better, he makes our receivers better, he makes our O-line better,” he said. “He makes our defense better because he has the much stronger ability to hold the ball. He is a great kid and he will be great for our culture. He was the unanimous best player in our draft.”

But just because Barkley is as complete of a player as both general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur have seen over their respective careers doesn’t mean that there still isn’t a lot of work for the rookie to be done.

“Even though he is extremely talented, he’s still a rookie,” Shurmur said. “Our offense is much more diverse than the one that he was just playing in. We’re going to ask him to do more things and colleges just run a whole bunch of plays sometimes. We don’t run quite that many and you have to be really good on the ones that you’re involved in. He’s going to get indoctrinated like any rookie and we’re going to treat him like any rookie coming to our organization.”

Gettleman, who has made no secret of his tremendous like of Barkley, a kid he’s referred to as “the total package” in the past, has also made no secret of the fact that he wanted the No. 2 overall draft pick chosen by the team to be “gold-jacket” worthy, a reference to the gold jackets given to the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees.

At the same time, Gettleman is aware of the pressure Barkley is going to face coming into the media capital of the world, which is why when Barkley arrives in East Rutherford for his first official day as a member of the Giants, Gettleman has some advice waiting for him.

“The advice I’m going to give Saquon when I see him (Saturday), I’m going to tell him to be Saquon,” Gettleman said. “That’s all that I want you to be. I don’t want you to be everything to everybody. Just understand that you take care of your football, the world will be at your feet.”

–Several days before the draft, Barkley was captured on film sporting a Giants sweatshirt while at a barbershop for a haircut.

Was he telegraphing what was to come or was the choice of apparel a happy coincidence?

“I know you guys would love for me to say that it was intentional, but in all honesty, it was a sweatshirt that I got actually from the (pre-draft) visit (to the facility),” Barkley said with a chuckle.

“I had to go get a haircut and I went to the barber shop and I was running late and I just got out of the shower, so I just grabbed it and went. And I put it on, not even thinking about anything, but someone snapped a picture of me and I guess it got to TMZ. But, hey, I guess it all worked out for the best.”

It certainly did as far as both parties are concerned. Barkley will join an immensely talented group of skill-position players that includes receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who via his Instagram account, voiced his hope that Barkley would become a new teammate.

“Yeah, it’s exciting,” Barkley said. “The players you just named are very talented and you’ve got that offense led with Eli Manning, a proven quarterback in the NFL with Super Bowl rings. Being able to surround yourself with that talent, you’ve got a standard to hold, you’ve got a standard to come into and you’ve got to raise your level of competition and raise your level of talent to compete with those guys and to be able to help that offense out at a young age.”

Barkley has already begun building a relationship with Beckham, whom he met earlier in the year in Los Angeles where he spent some time training.

“After the Combine, I went out to L.A. to train and that’s where he’s at and we kind of just hit it off. Built a great relationship and welcomed me in with open arms and gave me great advice, the good things and the bad things,” Barkley said.

“I feel like it’s important to learn from people’s mistakes and he’s the guy at the top of the game right now and everyone’s looking at him. So, I’d be dumb not to try to learn from the lessons he has taught me and told me.”

Not surprisingly, Beckham and Manning were among the first people to reach out to their new teammate shortly after the Giants pick was announced by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Even before his exchange with his new teammates, Barkley said he had a good feeling about the Giants being in his future.

“You see all the reports and you hear all the reports, but I got a feeling after the visit, when I got to formally meet all of the coaches and GM and everybody in the building. Leaving there, I just felt like that’s home,” he said.

“That’s the place where I wanted to be. Obviously in the draft, you don’t decide where you want to go, but if I had to pick, that would be the place that I would pick. Walking into that facility and you see the four Super Bowl rings just hanging in a trophy case, that right there just shows you the mindset and the standard of that place. And that’s where you want to be and that’s a place you want to be a part of.”

–With a new general manager and new coaching staff in place, one would think that every Giants player, especially those who are about to compete for starting jobs, would be a willing participant during the voluntary team activities that started in early April.

That has not been the case with tackle Ereck Flowers, the Giants’ first-round pick in the 2015 draft. Flowers, who lost the starting left tackle job when the Giants signed Nate Solder but who was told by head coach Pat Shurmur that he’d have a chance to compete for the right tackle job, has chosen to stay away from the team.

That hasn’t been received well with either Shurmur or general manager Dave Gettleman. Although both acknowledge that the activities run so far are voluntary, neither man has attempted to hide his displeasure with the 24-year-old Flowers’ decision to remain in Miami while his teammates get to know each other and the coaches and learn the basics of the new offense.

“He’s not here,” Shurmur said of Flowers at the start of the team’s three-day minicamp last week. “We understand that this is a program that is voluntary. I tend to believe it is very necessary, but he’s not here. So, when he is here, we will start to talk about him.”

Gettleman’s ire was a bit less subtle.

“He’s in Miami and we are here,” he said, adding, “He decided not to come. He’s an adult and he has the ability to make decisions on his own. This is a voluntary program and he has decided to stay in Miami. If you want to know why he is not here, call him.”

Flowers’ decision is curious indeed, mainly because in three years, he has failed to live up to his draft pedigree as the No. 9 overall pick of his class. The Giants, who are not expected to exercise the option year on Flowers’ deal, have reportedly been trying to trade Flowers, but have not found any takers.

It remains to be seen if the Giants will continue to try to move Flowers or if they will simply release him and call it a day.

If it’s the latter, the Giants would be hit with a $4.58 million dead money cap charge in addition to looking foolish for having blown such a premium pick. If they are able to trade Flowers, they would only be on the hook for the final part of his prorated signing bonus, $2.18 million.

They could also opt to keep him and proceed with their plan of having him compete at right tackle, though the likelihood of Flowers’ technique issues vanishing just because he’s switching from the left to the right isn’t a given.

–Running back Paul Perkins suffered a left pectoral injury at the start of the offseason program that required surgery, according to a source. Perkins was spotted at the recent minicamp with his left arm in a sling.

Head coach Pat Shurmur declined to specify the extent of Perkins’ injury or how long he’d be sidelined, saying that the third-year running back simply had a “sore arm.”

Perkins, a fifth-round draft pick two years ago, would appear to have his roster spot in jeopardy given the free-agency addition of Jonathan Stewart and the drafting of Saquon Barkley to go along with last year’s fourth-round pick Wayne Gallman.

 

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