Lifeblood pumped through the arteries of Giants Stadium today as a football season was reborn. The air was heavy.
So were the New York Giants.
"A lot of us are suffering now," said linebacker Lawrence Taylor, "from good restaurants and drinking beer."
With resolution reached in the National Football League strike, the Redskins will be here Sunday. The standard sellout of 76,891 also will be here. Right now, these are the only two certainties with roots in the Meadowlands.
"Our fans are resilient," said George Young, the general manager. "They may be mad now, but they will be in the stadium."
Now there also is speculation on two other topics:
* Rob Carpenter, the holdout fullback.
* And quality player performance.
Neither is expected back Sunday. Both are expected back someday. But when?
"In limbo," said Young, describing the state of the Carpenter negotiations. Young noted team rosters are frozen and no free agents can be signed. Gary Wichard, Carpenter's agent, awaits word from Ed Garvey, the players association's executive director, for clarifications on whether agents can negotiate for unsigned players.
"The way things are going," Coach Ray Perkins says of a return by Carpenter, "I'm not planning on it."
No one knows for sure about how the players will perform. By Sunday, it will have been 64 days since Washington defeated Tampa Bay, 21-13, on Sept. 19 to improve to 2-0.
And it will have been 63 days since the Giants lost, 27-19, to Green Bay in a Monday night game that dropped them to 0-2.
"You might see some ragged play now. But not for two or three games," says veteran linebacker Harry Carson. "Maybe for two or three series."
Timing, the players keep saying, will be the real troublemaker. Quarterback Scott Brunner said it's toughest on the quarterbacks. "And we'll probably throw a lot because it's the easiest thing to put in the offense," Brunner said.
Kicker Joe Danelo, who practiced during the strike, using his wife as his holder, said it's toughest on the kickers. "You need the hold, the snap and the kick," he said.
Perkins has heard it all already. Enough already, he says. "Seems like everybody is an authority on this. But we've never even been in this situation before."
Trainer Ronnie Barnes says 85 percent of the Giants are in as good or better condition as when they reported to camp.
"Most of us are a little overweight," Taylor says simply.
Still, most Giants -- as if to protect their Sunday afternoon machismo -- insist they are in adequate condition. You'll see Sunday, they seem to say.
Tight end Gary Shirk and offensive tackle Gordon King swear they are in better condition now than when the strike started.
"But being in good condition and being in football condition are two different things," cornerback Terry Jackson stressed. "Running two miles and not feeling tired is different than running two miles with 280 pounds on your back and not being tired. Your body has to get acclimated to getting punished every Sunday."
"We'll have some pulled muscles," says Barnes, the trainer.
"From the stamina standpoint, we'll have problems," says Perkins. "We'll substitute, keep people fresh."
Times are not likely to get any easier for these Giants. After the Redskins, they play at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. Two games in five days.
Shirk says he once played four games in 11 days in the World Football League. "And that was crazy," he says.
The Giants worked out for two hours today. "Standard Thursday practice," said Taylor. "Nothing different than usual."
Except that some players complained of soreness caused by game-time idleness, which doesn't usually happen in late November. At least not in the National Football League.
Meanwhile, Sunday and the Redskins approach. "That's when the hitting becomes the hitting-hitting," says linebacker Carson, looking nearly fiendish.
Against the Redskins, Perkins said, rookie Rich Umphrey will replace Ernie Hughes at center and Cliff Chatman will replace Leon Perry at fullback in the two-back formation.
Perkins noted defensive end Gary Jeter's knee has not healed and he will not play. Phil Tabor will take Jeter's place.
It seemed nearly strange to hear such normal football talk. Why, it almost seemed like November.
"Now, the season is like a seven-game home stretch," says Shirk.
"Anything good that came from the strike?" King, the offensive lineman/captain, said, repeating the question. "Now that eight teams in the conference make the playoffs that will give us a better shot, at least. It's something."
Perkins said it helps to play the Redskins first since the opponent is familiar. "We know their history," he said. "We know what they're like."
And Taylor, about to enter the second portion of his second professional season, wiped the sweat of practice off his brow and tugged on his stomach, only slightly soft. "Five pounds overwight when I weighed in yesterday," he said. "Two pounds over today after practicing."
Duly thinner and ever meaner, Taylor located the New York Giants' perspective at last: "It's not like we're the only team with problems."