The Day at Camp: August 3, 2013

Remember the old days of pro football when, if a player suffered an injury, he suffered in silence because there was just no way he was going to come off the field? 

Yeah, I do too – it wasn’t that long ago that I can remember guys telling me about how they played through concussions, broken bones, muscle strains – you name it – because there was no way they were going to risk sitting down and letting the guy behind them on the depth chart take their job.

But times have changed. You look at the countless number of former players who, today, have severe quality of life issues as a result of all of those injuries they suffered because of the game, injuries that they hoped would heal and never be an issue again.

It’s human nature to show compassion for these men who can’t do the simple things in life, such as tying their shoes, walking, , driving a car, etc. But at the same time, you wonder if they could go back and do it all over again, would they still be so macho in trying to hide the injuries that today are affecting their lifestyles.

That brings us to rookie first rounder Justin Pugh, the Giants’ first rounder who is out indefinitely as he recovers from a concussion. Here’s a young man who is fighting for a starting job and who can ill-afford to miss any time since he’s a rookie.

Yet credit Pugh for being smart enough to tell the medical staff that something wasn’t quite right after he took a blow to the head during Thursday’s practice.

“He didn’t feel well when he got inside and coming to the meeting was not an easy thing for him, (but) he did,” said head coach Tom Coughlin.. “I don’t think there’s any question about that – that was the thing that he should have done.”

Yet there are probably some who believe that Pugh should suck it up and move forward since he was given a little over $4.49 million just to put his name on a contract and is guaranteed to be paid his base salary for at least the first two years of his contract. There are those who believe, “Well, why should he bother to rush back since he has his money.”

Those that believe that have probably never had a concussion in their lives. They also are not seeing the bigger picture.

Pugh does care about being out on the field; he could have hid his symptoms and tried to work though it and might have even looked bad doing so. He could have risked his quality of life later on by trying to tough it out.

Instead he’s being smart considering that it’s early in camp and he was here for the entire spring. Pugh aspires to have a long career with the Giants and if it means that he has to miss a few days of practice, so what?

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially one that’s been rocked by a concussion. Pugh knows that as does the rest of the NFL, which has placed such a heavy emphasis on player safety.  Sure it’s not the game many of us grew up admiring, but hopefully these added precautions allow these guys to have longer, more productive careers.

Nothing new on receiver Hakeem Nicks (groin), whom Coughlin said is still on target to return to action on Tuesday, after the players’ day off. Coughlin also said that he didn’t think Corey Webster’s groin injury was anything too serious. Also, offensive lineman Justin Pugh (concussion) remained out of practice, though Coughlin said that Pugh is getting better.

Status quo on the five PUP guys. Next time I mention them, it will be if there is a change in any of their statuses.  As I tweeted earlier today, I have a feeling that Chris Snee (hip) is going to be the first guy off PUP, perhaps as soon as next week if all continues to go well.

The Giants have really been taking advantage of all the talent they have at linebacker, playing around with some different combinations and new looks for the upcoming season. On one play, for example, it looked like they brought Keith Rivers down to the line, on the left side. Rivers ended up rushing the passer, but the play was a run that went in the opposite direction.

Linebackers coach Jim Herrmann is hoping that these different packages will hopefully create some headaches for opponents.

“We have a lot of things that we do and we have a lot of guys who fit into different little roles, which is exciting for them because they may not be a starter in first or second down, but come third down, they can be a starter because of their talents,” Herrmann said today.

“To me, the ball game is broken up into two phases.  First and second down and then, to me, third down is a completely different game because the majority of teams in this league are going to throw the ball every play on third down.”

Also worth noting is that one day after saying that he thought he might be staying at defensive end full time, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was seen standing up in a formation, I suspect, in the joker formation. Actually throughout this camp, I’ve seen Justin Tuck stand up in a two-point stance as well, so it looks like the coaches are experimenting with different players in that role.

* Cornerback Prince Amukamara continues to have a strong camp. He broke up a pass intended for receiver Louis Murphy in the corner of the end zone when the Giants were working on their red zone packages. On the second such play, Murphy came up with the catch, but barely, as Amukamara was right there to make sure that Murphy didn’t get much after the catch.

* In the final 11-on-11, the Giants ran their hurry-up offense, with Ryan Nassib in charge. Nassib, who’s looked very erratic this camp, continued to look erratic on this drive, throwing two interceptions. The first was a ball tipped by linebacker Kyle Bosworth and snagged by Mark Herzlich. The second, which ended the practice, was thrown right to cornerback Laron Scott.

*Speaking of Nassib, earlier in the practice, he threw a pass that was just a little behind tight end Chase Clement, who should have made the reception but who dropped the pass.

* Good job by tight end Bear Pascoe to stonewall Justin Tuck on a running play in 11-on-11s.

* I couldn’t see who the linebacker was – it was either Aaron Curry or Dan Connor – but whoever it was, he was late in filling a hole as André Brown darted past the scrum and into the open field.

* Last summer, tight end Larry Donnell started to show some promise as an H-back/tight end prospect, and after an entire spring where he sat out with an undisclosed foot problem, Donnell has quietly been having a solid camp. It looks like he’s being used much in the same way as Adrien Robinson – goal line and on passes along the sideline. Donnell has done a nice job of using his body to shield the ball from defenders and has especially looked good on those jump balls.

* I watched Eric Herman a couple of times go against the third string defensive line and both times, he was too high in his stance. He’s also not getting his feet aligned with his hips, which means he’s not establishing a solid base and is susceptible to being moved out of a hole.

* Offensive lineman Stephen Goodin stood up well against big rookie Johnathan Hankins. The battle was a draw, but give Goodin credit for setting his anchor to meet brute force with brute force. On the next play, however, Goodin’s footwork looks just a tad sloppy as he was bent away from the point of attack.

*In punting drills, Will Hill, working as a gunner, was driven so far out of bounds by a double team that I thought he was going to be pushed out of the building. It looked like Hill had some room to cut inside of the double team, but it was just too much for him.

* Victor Cruz trotted back to field a punt, something that I don’t think many Giants fans want to see. He was eventually replaced by Jayron Hosley, who earlier today told me that he’s looking forward to having a chance to return punts in a game because, as he put it, “I like to finish what I started, and I feel like I didn’t finish what I set out to do last year.”

*We had trouble seeing most of the 11-on-11 red zone drills because the media was not allowed to move past the 25-yard line and a wall of players kept us from seeing was going on down at the other end of the field, but I did manage to see Ramses Barden make a very smooth catch in the corner of the end zone, using his height to reach up for the ball, which was thrown high by David Carr, and to come down with it, both feet in bounds.

You can say whatever you want about offensive lineman David Diehl, who of late has been a lightning rod for negativity by Giants fans.

Yes, he’s another year older and yes, he hasn’t had a good showing in the last two seasons – he was the first person to admit that he didn’t play last year the way he’s capable of playing.

But if there’s one thing that hasn’t diminished in Diehl it’s that fighting spirit that got this scrappy fifth-round draft pick to where he is now.

“In order to get me off the field,” he said today, “they’re going to have to shoot me.”

It obviously won’t come to that, but Diehl, 32 years old, isn’t taking any chances. He spent the offseason cleaning up his diet as he recovered from knee surgery, the goal to be in the best shape of his life. As such, he lost about 11 pounds, saying he’s down to about 304 lbs. and he trimmed some body fat off his 6-5 frame.

“Once my knee started feeling great, from that point on I just took off to make sure that I came out here just like I did,” he said.

“I have no regrets about what I did this offseason. Anything that’s happened, I know that I’m able to come out here and play the best.”

He’ll have to do play his best, as first rounder Justin Pugh, who though now sidelined with a concussion, is believed to be the heir apparent to Diehl, who this past offseason took a pay cut in what is probably his last year as a Giant.

That’s why Diehl wants to go out with a bang and on his terms.

“It’s not the first time they every drafted somebody and it’s not going to be the last as long as I play,” Diehl said of his competition. “That competition only pushes you to be harder and pushes you to the limits, to earn everything, but yeah, regardless of those circumstances, I didn’t play my best football last year. I’ll be the first one to say it. You’ve got to look in the mirror and judge yourself.

“Nothing is ever given to you in life; you’ve got to earn everything,” he added. “For me, there wasn’t an offseason. I was here the week after the football season, the week after I had surgery, and I’ve been here grinding all for this, all for this purpose, to come out here, lay it on the line and earn my position. I’ve never been more ready to play football in my life.”

So if you’re one of those people whose stomach churns at the thought of another year of Diehl at right tackle, just remember that the fight and dogged determination he’s showing will count for something in his quest to leave the game on his terms.

“I’m not ready to hang up my cleats. I know what I’m capable of, I’ve worked extremely hard to prove it to people and I’m going to do it this year,” he said. “I can sit here and say what I want to say to you guys, but it’s all about what I do. It’s all about my actions and that’s what this is all about.

“So, I’m ready to go — I’ve never been more ready to play football. Challenge me, throw what you want at me — I could care less. I know what I’m capable of and I know what I’m going to do.”

“Thank God we have (the field house).” — Head coach Tom Coughlin on being able to move the practice inside at a moment’s notice.

The Giants will practice on Sunday, but that session will be closed to the public, presumably because of the soccer match that will be played at MetLife Stadium. The players are off on Monday and will return to the field (hopefully outdoors) on Tuesday.

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