The New York Giants say they are learning to coexist with their taskmaster coach, Tom Coughlin.
The getting-to-know you period was rough for Coughlin and the Giants last year. Coughlin imposed his lengthy list of rules and get-tough policies on a team that wasn't accustomed to such measures. The veterans bristled when Coughlin did things like fining players for being on time to team meetings instead of the five minutes early that Coughlin demands.
Coughlin's approach didn't pay off on the field. The Giants lost eight straight games after a 5-2 beginning to the season and finished 6-10, a daunting seven games behind the first-place Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. They lost the first six games started by prized rookie quarterback Eli Manning after Coughlin benched veteran Kurt Warner.
But there is plenty of optimism in the Giants' training camp, in part because Manning should be much more comfortable in his second pro season and in part because the players seem more accepting of their coach's ways.
"I think everybody knows what to expect from Coach Coughlin," Manning said this week at the Giants' camp in Albany, N.Y. "The five minutes early, that's just part of it. Now you know how it is. No one talks about it any more . . . . That's just the way it is. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Everybody knows we've got to get better. We need some discipline to be a better team than we were last year."
The presence of Coughlin didn't deter top free agents from signing with the club. The Giants added wide receiver Plaxico Burress, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce and right tackle Kareem McKenzie in unrestricted free agency.
"I think the one thing Washington gave me was a mixture of everything," said Pierce, who signed a six-year, $26 million contract with the Giants in March after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins. "I had three head coaches, four defensive coordinators, four linebacker coaches. I'm used to change and being able to adapt.
"In the NFL, it's all about working. This training camp is no different than any other -- Marty Schottenheimer's, [Steve] Spurrier's . . . no, Spurrier's was different. That was like nobody else's. But besides that, it's training camp. It's no different. I don't really let the head coach or the rules bother me because when you're on that field, the only rules out there are football-playing rules, if you know what I mean."
Coughlin said the relationship between him and his players is evolving, and it's not only the players who are adapting.
"Sure I've changed with them," Coughlin said. "I know them very well, and they know me. It's just a product of the opportunity we've had to work together. It gets better."
More From Manning
Asked this week about the transition from playing in college in Oxford, Miss., to playing in the NFL in New York, Manning chuckled and said that he lives in Hoboken, N.J., because it reminds him of Oxford.
"Obviously Oxford and New York are two different things," he said. "Oxford is small and low-key. You know everybody's name. I think that's why I live in Hoboken. Hoboken kind of reminds me of Oxford. It's kind of small. I know everybody in the whole area. You can walk everywhere, so I think that's why I stay there."
But Manning didn't blame his rookie-season struggles on playing on the big New York stage.
"I don't think I found myself intimidated by New York," he said. "Everybody talks about the New York media. Everywhere you are, you're going to get asked questions. If you play bad, you're going to hear questions about it. I guess the New York media could be a little more brutal than the Mississippi media. There are so many of them. Every day, there are guys you have to talk to. But I tried to be patient with them. I tried to answer the questions and be nice. I never went to the media and said, 'I don't want to talk right now.' I never dreaded talking to the media or dreaded anything about the city."
And getting his first victory as an NFL starter in last season's finale against the Dallas Cowboys made his offseason a lot easier, he said.
"I didn't have to spend the whole offseason hearing, 'When are you going to get that first win?'" said Manning, the top overall selection in last year's NFL draft who was obtained by the Giants in a draft-day trade. "Dealing with that question over and over again would have been a pain. I'm glad I don't have that on my back. And it wasn't just getting that win. It was, the last few games, playing better football. We had a chance to beat Pittsburgh. We had a chance to beat Cincinnati, and then we beat Dallas. We were almost there, a few plays away. There was improvement. I got better . . . . I had a better comfort level out there. That was a start. You've got to get a comfort level with your team. You've got to get a comfort level with your coaches and they've got to get a comfort level with you." . . .
Burress is sidelined for a few days by a strained hip flexor . . . .Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey is sporting a large tattoo of an American flag on his right arm . . . .
Pierce is represented by Drew Rosenhaus, the Miami Beach-based agent who is everywhere, it seems, these days. Pierce said he teases Rosenhaus about how high his profile has become, but doesn't really care because the agent gets the job done. "I told him I see him on ESPN more than any player in the league," Pierce said. "At the same time, he's a good guy and he does what his players want. That's what an agent is supposed to do. They're supposed to do what the players want. My [previous] agents, I didn't feel like they were working hard for me and letting [the Redskins] know what I felt. It was kind of like I had to do that. So it was like, 'What's the point of having an agent?' I got somebody who knows how to get his point across."
Philadelphia wide receiver Todd Pinkston suffered an Achilles' tendon injury during the Eagles' morning practice today. The Eagles were awaiting the results of an MRI exam, but there were fears that Pinkston might have suffered a season-ending injury. If that's the case, the club likely will move Greg Lewis into the starting lineup and make rookie Reggie Brown its No. 3 receiver.
Eagles tailback Correll Buckhalter suffered a knee injury during the practice. He has missed two entire seasons during his career because of knee injuries. The extent of this injury was not immediately clear. He has become the Eagles' No. 1 tailback at least temporarily, with Brian Westbrook holding out from training camp in a contract dispute.
C. Brown Hurt Again
It's not like Courtney Brown's new team, the Denver Broncos, should be surprised that the defensive end got hurt, suffering a dislocated left elbow during Thursday morning's practice that is to sideline him three to four weeks. The former top overall draft choice missed 33 of 80 games in five seasons with his previous team, the Cleveland Browns, and played in all 16 games in only one season -- his rookie year in 2000 . . . .
Wide receiver Terrell Owens watched the Eagles' practice Thursday afternoon but didn't participate after suffering a strained groin muscle during the morning practice.
Coach Andy Reid moved quickly to dispel any notion that Owens's down time was related to his ongoing contract dispute with the team, saying during a news briefing: "It's a legitimate injury. This guy would never do that. He's not that type of guy."
Owens continued to refuse to speak to reporters. He hasn't consented to interviews -- except for a brief, less-than-revealing one Wednesday conducted by former Eagles wideout Irving Fryar for a Philadelphia television station -- since reporting to training camp Monday evening. He has told the team that it could be quite a while before he's ready to talk to media members again . . . .
The Buffalo Bills reportedly are the latest team interested in trading for Eagles defensive tackle Corey Simon, the club's disgruntled franchise player who hasn't signed his contract and hasn't reported to training camp. The Eagles talked to the Baltimore Ravens during the offseason about a possible trade involving Simon, but the deal never materialized because the Ravens wanted to sign Simon to a long-term contract and found Simon's demands to be excessive . . . .
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin suffered a broken nose during a practice . . . .
Pro Bowl kick returner Eddie Drummond reported to the Detroit Lions' camp and signed the one-year, $1.43 million contract that the club had tendered to him in restricted free agency during the offseason. Drummond, who is represented by Rosenhaus, wants a long-term deal and previously had refused to report to camp . . . .
Dave Hack, the Miami Dolphins' video director, was filming practice on an approximately 40-foot-tall tower when lightning struck near him Thursday as an afternoon thunderstorm rolled in. Hack was stunned but was not seriously hurt. He was examined by paramedics but needed no further medical attention.