Chris Snee had better pass the gravy promptly at Thanksgiving dinner, or he might get fined.
Those who think they have pushy in-laws ought to consider Snee, a rookie guard for the New York Giants. His new father-in-law is the Giants' taskmaster coach, Tom Coughlin.
Snee and Coughlin's daughter, Katie, met at Boston College and had a son, Dylan, last fall. The Giants hired Coughlin, a noted disciplinarian who led the Jacksonville Jaguars to two AFC title games and already has been sanctioned by the league and the NFL Players Association for violating their offseason workout rules in recent months, in January and were fully aware of his situation when they chose Snee in the second round of the draft in April.
Snee and Katie Coughlin were married July 2 in Boston, Snee and Tom Coughlin said as the Giants opened training camp late last week.
"It was a wonderful time for our family and the Snee family, a very nice ceremony,'' Coughlin said. "I had anticipated this since the spring. It's no different now. Football is football. The business part is the business part of it, and the family part is separate.''
Snee said the situation isn't awkward. "We understand,'' he said. "I know what he expects from me.''
Still, he said he expected to be on the receiving end of plenty of abuse from his teammates. "I was going to take it, being a rookie, regardless,'' Snee said. "But I'm sure I'll take a little more.''
Veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer was only too happy to oblige immediately, saying this situation was even juicier than Giants quarterback Jesse Palmer's offseason TV show.
"That's even better than 'The Bachelor,' '' Toomer said. "We have some nicknames for him. We call him 'Baby Daddy.' ''
Toomer said he was skeptical that the setup could work to the players' advantage when they need complaints about the coaches addressed. "He's a rookie,'' Toomer said. "I don't know if he has that much pull.''
More seriously, Snee said it was too early to tell whether his new teammates would be reluctant to talk freely about Coughlin around him.
"I'll be able to better answer that question after a few days,'' he said. "I really haven't heard much griping. I don't know if that's because I'm around or not.''
He was surrounded by reporters Friday, the opening day of the Giants' camp at the University of Albany, and said he hoped the fascination with the story would fade within a few weeks.
"That's what I'm hoping for after camp, after I show I'm a legit NFL player,'' Snee said.
Scouts and executives from other days say that Snee is a legitimate NFL starting-caliber player, and that he didn't need any connection to Coughlin to be drafted where he was drafted. Snee said he hopes to earn a spot in the Giants' season-opening starting lineup, which made for some more anxious moments last week. He was the last Giants rookie to sign a contract and report to camp, even after top overall draft selection Eli Manning.
He woke up Thursday morning to the news that Manning, a quarterback, had agreed in principle to a deal, he said, and quickly instructed his agent, Tony Agnone, to make certain he had a contract in time to be on hand for the opening practice. He began driving toward camp even before an agreement was reached, he said, and signed around 10:30 p.m. Thursday -- about 101/2 hours after players were scheduled to report. He was on the field for Friday morning's practice.
"I just wanted to be here for the first practice,'' said Snee, who signed a six-year contract that included a $2.3 million signing bonus. "If it came to it, I was going to say, 'Give me whatever deal you want,' and I was just going to be here. . . . I'm trying to break into a starting job. I can't afford to miss any practices.''
Having a little cash didn't hurt either. According to Snee, Katie was closing on a house for the family in New Jersey as he was participating in his first practices. Said Snee: "That [the contract] helps a little bit. . . . It's been hectic.''
Coughlin's reputation preceded him to New York. "We've all heard things about the legend of Coach Coughlin and how hard his practices are,'' Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. " . . . He demands a lot of you. I don't care if you're a first-year player or a 12th-year player like me.''
Coughlin fined two Jaguars rookies $500 apiece for being a half-hour late to a team meeting before a January 1999 playoff game even though they'd been involved in an auto accident while on their way, and had to be picked up by a club employee and taken to a hospital later that night. Coughlin's rules for the Jaguars included no kneeling or bending over in practices and no slouching in meetings. But Snee insisted that, yes, there is a softer side to his father-in-law away from football.
"He's a family man,'' Snee said. "He still has a serious demeanor, but he's a little more laid-back. I can talk to him. He's a good guy.''
That softer side probably won't be on display in Albany, however.
"The important thing is that he got here,'' Coughlin said of his son-in-law.
Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey has been doing light running on the field during the team's practices, but still is at least two weeks away from being ready to play as he recovers from late-June foot surgery.
"He's chomping at the bit to be out here,'' Coughlin said. "We have to kind of keep him restrained so he progresses according to where the medical people want him. But he's at the practices. He's in all the meetings. He's in the weight room. He showed up here maybe [last] Tuesday or Wednesday and the first thing he did was, he was in the weight room. . . . He came jogging down the hill [Friday] and ran through the pre-practice. He can do those kinds of things. He can't really do any real stringent change of direction [but] he can run straight ahead.'' . . . The Giants seem prepared to hand their place-kicking job to Bill Gramatica after waiving Matt Bryant as camp opened. . . .
At the Giants' afternoon practice Friday, a truck drove by three times on a street adjacent to the fields with the "Hail to the Redskins'' music blaring from its speakers. . . . Tailback Ron Dayne hopes to get a chance from Coughlin after his weight problems and lack of productivity led former coach Jim Fassel to bury him on the depth chart. "The new coaching staff is really giving everybody a second chance, even me,'' Dayne said. " . . . You never forget how to play football.''
Coughlin said he was encouraged that Dayne, the former Heisman Trophy winner at Wisconsin and first-round draft choice who was on the Giants' inactive list for all 16 games last season, showed up at training camp lighter than he was when the club completed its offseason workouts. But Dayne said: "I ran a lot [but] I don't think I did too much different. I probably worked harder in the offseason before this one.'' . . .
Manning, like veteran Kurt Warner, said that the Giants' starting-quarterback competition won't be bitterly contested.
"It's always good to have someone to push you,'' Manning said. "It's going to be a friendly competition. I'm not going to try to sabotage him in any way or do anything bad. I talk to him. We're fine. I'm just going to work hard and compete for the starting job. It will be good for me to learn from him, a guy who's been the MVP and won Super Bowls.
"You can't go in there and say, 'Kurt just threw a touchdown. I have to throw a touchdown on this play.' That's not football. You take what they [defenders] give you. When you have a chance to go deep, you try to hit it. Otherwise, you just try to play smart, read the defense and make the right decision. . . . I just have to go out there and worry about myself and compete.''
The prized rookie said he realizes that he must win the respect of his veteran teammates.
"You have to earn that,'' Manning said. "You have to earn that from practice and being around and showing that you know what you're doing.''
So far, the veterans seem to have accepted him. They say they have no problem with the amount of attention that Manning receives.
"We're fine with that,'' linebacker Carlos Emmons said. "It should be that way. He's the number one pick. The attention should be on him. We need him to be the player he should be.''
Retirement? What retirement? Even though he's now a CBS employee, former tight end Shannon Sharpe was spotted in the Denver Broncos' weight room at 6 a.m. one day last week. . . . NFL officials have begun making their annual rounds of training camps, and this year's briefings with players and media members should be particularly interesting. The officials have been instructed by the league's competition committee to pay close attention to clutching-and-grabbing tactics by defensive backs on wide receivers. If the games are called as promised, it could be nearly impossible for defenses to stop the passing game this season except by hitting the quarterback regularly. . . .
Manning's six-year, $45-million contract contained an initial signing bonus of $3 million -- far from the $20 million that was widely portrayed, ignoring the fact that the Giants' salary-cap constraints did not permit such an up-front payment. According to a person who has seen the contract, the complex deal contains a $9 million option bonus in 2005. It has guaranteed annual salaries, the person said, and a complicated mechanism by which Manning's playing time can void the 2008 through 2010 seasons in the contract but the Giants can then buy back the 2008 and 2009 seasons by paying Manning a $5 million bonus. A $3 million roster bonus in 2007 brings the total bonus money to $20 million.
The Philadelphia Eagles went to full pads on a steamy afternoon Sunday in their first practice of their camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., that was open to the public. But Coach Andy Reid immediately found himself facing a shortage of defensive tackles.
Corey Simon was absent from camp for a personal matter. Darwin Walker (hamstring) and Paul Grasmanis (knee) were sidelined by minor injuries. And when Hollis Thomas and Sam Rayburn were forced to stop practicing because of heat-related symptoms, that left the Eagles with only one defensive tackle -- rookie Jon Bradley -- for a while.
"We're a little short there," Reid said. "I am concerned.'' . . . Eagles safety Brian Dawkins isn't practicing because of a groin injury. . . .
Wide receiver Terrell Owens said his getting-to-know-you period with quarterback Donovan McNabb is going smoothly, in part because the two spent offseason time together in Arizona.
"We definitely made some progress, with the minicamps and the passing camps," Owens said. "I got a chance to get out to Arizona to visit with him a couple times. That obviously helps, any time you can get together and work on some things. It improves our chemistry.
"Donovan and I, we kind of meshed anyway, from the Pro Bowls we both attended. Now that we're on the same team and we got a chance to visit with one another outside of football in Arizona, that was a plus. He had to get a hall pass from his wife to get out. We had a good time. . . . He likes to have a good time. He brought a little character out of me. I can be known as a little serious, a little standoffish. I like to have fun and being with a guy like Donovan, he kind of rubs off on you a little bit."
Owens said he doesn't have a certain number of catches in mind for his first season with the Eagles.
"A lot of people criticize me about griping about a lot of passes, having a 100-catch season," said Owens, a four-time Pro Bowl selection in eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. "Obviously those guys didn't really do their research because I've only had one 100[-catch] season. I've always said to myself that I can do with 80 passes what another guy can do with 100 passes."
Miami Dolphins tailback Ricky Williams has filed retirement papers with the league, according to an NFL official. And because of the rules governing the league's substance-abuse program, the move essentially ensures that Williams cannot play this season, even if he wanted to return.
Under the rules, if a player in the program retires and then returns from retirement in less than a year, it is a violation of the program. Williams reportedly has tested positive for marijuana three times already, and a fourth violation of the program would subject him to an indefinite suspension, which usually lasts a year.
A third violation is a four-game suspension. So Williams, who left the Dolphins just before training camp, would face that penalty even if he returns for the 2005 season. Williams, 27, has said he won't reconsider his decision to retire but his agent, Leigh Steinberg, has said that Williams's loss of motivation to play football perhaps could be temporary.
Coach Dennis Green continues to shake up the Cardinals, waiving starting center Pete Kendall. He was to have salaries of $2.75 million this season and $2.5 million in the 2005 season. . . . The Arizona Cardinals and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the third overall choice in the draft, reached a contract agreement overnight, an NFL source said this morning. The Green Bay Packers signed cornerback Ahmad Carroll, the 25th overall pick in the draft. That left, as of early this afternoon, seven first-round choices still unsigned -- San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers (No. 4 overall), Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (No. 6), Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall (No. 8), Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11), Seattle defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs (No. 23), Cincinnati tailback Chris Perry (No. 26) and New England tight end Ben Watson (No. 32). . . .
Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, ousted from his consulting job with the Browns during the offseason after having his advice ignored by Coach Butch Davis, is serving as a consultant to the Cowboys in training camp. . . . Offensive tackle Kyle Turley has left the St. Louis Rams' camp for further evaluations of his ailing back and could be facing a forced retirement.