It wasn't a day for the New York Giants to make any decisions or do any fretting about their intriguing starting-quarterback derby. That will come as the season nears, when they will have to ask themselves how much good football Kurt Warner has left in him and how close Eli Manning is to being ready for an unveiling that counts.
For one day at least, as they opened training camp with a pair of practices at Albany (N.Y.) University on Friday, the Giants could dream about wonderful possibilities, about Warner recapturing the magic that carried him to two Super Bowl appearances and two NFL most valuable player awards with the St. Louis Rams, and about Manning making a quick transition from prized rookie to worthy member of quarterbacking's first family.
"It's the first day," Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer said. "I can't tell you how the competition is going. I can't give you any juicy answers yet. . . . We'll be comfortable with whichever guy the coaches pick because they're both good picks."
The most interesting of the NFL's quarterback competitions got under way shortly after Manning, the top overall choice in April's draft who signed the richest rookie contract in league history Thursday, walked down the hill leading from the locker room to the five practice fields chatting with fellow quarterback Jesse Palmer. He joined Warner on the nearest field to warm up for the day's first practice.
Giants Coach Tom Coughlin, as he'd promised, split up the work with the starting offense, with Warner leading off the quarterback rotation during the morning practice and Manning taking snaps with the starters in the afternoon. Manning's first throw of the day in team drills sailed high and wide of his receiver, and a bad read of the defense and a bad pass produced an interception by cornerback Ray Green soon after. But he had a gorgeous, long touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Jamaar Taylor later in the morning session, and began full team drills during the afternoon practice with a dart to Toomer for a completion.
"I remember my first day at minicamp" just after the draft, Manning said. "I was nervous. I didn't know what the plays were all the time. I was nervous about getting snaps, and you were just thinking so much. Today I knew what I was doing, so I could think about other things. It ran smoothly. Mentally I was prepared to run everything, so I was happy with that part."
He said he studied his playbook -- which "is going to be my best friend in camp, I'm pretty sure," he said -- in his dorm room and went to bed early Thursday night after arriving in town and signing his six-year, $45 million contract that includes $20 million in bonus money.
"It's a good thing to have him here," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. "I've been hanging out with him quite a bit, and now I don't feel bad about making him pay. I've been picking up the tabs. I didn't want him to have to borrow money from Peyton [his older brother, the reigning co-league MVP for the Indianapolis Colts]. Now he can buy my house if he wants."
Some teammates kidded Manning about wanting to borrow a few dollars, he said, but he wanted to stop discussing his contract publicly. "It's a big number," he said. "Now it's time to try to earn that and just go and play football."
Even Warner, signed by the Giants in June after he was released by the Rams following two disappointing seasons on the heels of his remarkable three-year run, said this competition is more about Manning than about him.
"There's no question Eli is the quarterback of the future," said Warner, who had an unspectacular day but maintained that his command of the offensive system is improving. "I don't care if I'm a sidebar. I want to win a Super Bowl as a sidebar. I don't think anybody in the organization knows how this is going to play out. I do think that the determining factor, more than anything, is how quickly he progresses."
While Manning tries to live up to his contract, his draft status and being the brother of Peyton and the son of former league MVP Archie Manning, Warner faces a different kind of pressure -- convincing skeptics around the league that he isn't finished at age 33.
"In minicamp, after three days people were saying, 'He doesn't look so good,' " Warner said. "Everybody expects you to be an MVP every time you step on the field. It is going to take some time to get the ins and outs of this offense like I did in St. Louis. It's not going to happen overnight."