The Giants don’t leave for Indianapolis for four days, but Super Bowl XLVI came to them today in the form of a huge media crush in the Timex Performance Center. The locker room looked like an evacuation center after a natural disaster, with scores of people wandering around, seemingly searching for direction. The players who made themselves available at their lockers were surrounded by a horde of reporters.
But for the Giants, it was business as usual. They sat in meetings. They practiced. Their focus was on preparing for the next game, which happens to be the biggest one of the year, their Super Bowl confrontation with the New England Patriots. Kickoff is 10 days away, but the Giants are trying to make this week as normal as possible, even as scores of cameras, microphones and tape recorders descended on their training complex.
“It’s just a little more crowded in the locker room trying to work your way through,” guard Kevin Boothe said. “But other than that, things have been pretty normal around here in terms of our preparation. We’re preparing as if it’s another game. I think that’s what you have to do. We understand it’s the Super Bowl, but you’re trying to keep in that same routine. There are just more people around the facility.”
“You can keep it normal,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “We understand what’s ahead of us, but at the same time we can’t get away from what we’ve been doing and what’s been successful. I think that’s what guys understand. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, not trying to put too much on our plate. But just do the same thing we’ve been doing.”
The first reviews were positive.
“I thought practice was good today,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “I thought guys had good energy, running around making quick decisions, fast paced. I think that’s good for the first practice knowing that we have six more practices before we play. I thought it was a good tempo, good pace and guys were prepared. We’ll continue to get better as the week goes on.”
“It was nice to get back out,” tackle Kareem McKenzie said, “to get a good lather up and go ahead and get a look at our offense, see what we’re going to run, and try and focus in on being able to do that, run our plays effectively, and just seeing how to attack in a given situation that may present itself.
“It’s best to go ahead and do what you would normally do. Prepare as we have done for the past five or six weeks. Why mess with a good situation or winning formula? Go ahead and do the due diligence for yourself and your team and make sure you have the proper mindset for an important game, basically one of the most important games you’ll have in your life.”
Experience always helps in an abnormal week like this and the Giants have plenty of it. Sixteen members of the current team were on the Super Bowl XLII roster when the Giants defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (D.J. Ware was inactive for the game). Mathias Kiwanuka was on injured reserve. The Giants also have four players who suited up in Super Bowls for other teams.
The Giants are installing most of their game plan here in practices today, tomorrow and Saturday, which mirror their standard Wednesday through Friday workouts. They will travel to Indianapolis Monday and resume normal practices on Wednesday.
The formula worked last time, as the Giants defeated the Patriots, 17-14, in Arizona.
“I hope the preparation is pretty similar,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “I think our plan last time was very good, as in our scheduling, how we practiced, our meeting times. From my self-schedule to what I did before we went to [Arizona] and once we got to the Super Bowl site – when I could watch film, when I had to do media, practice, what I did at night to get my rest – I remember pretty well how I tried to stay on the same schedule that I normally would for a home game. So things that I did on a Thursday night, I’d do the same on the Thursday night at the site. Obviously it’s always a little different because there’s traveling, there’s other obligations you have to do for Super Bowl week, but you try as much as possible to keep things as consistent as you can.”
Coach Tom Coughlin is using his Super Bowl XLII schedule as a blueprint for this game.
“With changes based on the location you are forced to do because of your practice facility (at the University of Indianapolis) being 20 minutes away,” Coughlin said. “We may do most of our teaching right in the hotel rather than move over to a complex and teach. Those are the kinds of things that we had to adjust. Basically, the format will be the same in terms of how we operate here and what the days off are, when we travel, we what will do when we start up again.”
Manning set the tone for the week on Tuesday, when he spoke to the entire team about working hard this week and treating the journey to Indianapolis as a business trip. He told his teammates to prepare this week as if they were playing this week.
“It helped to hear that from Eli,” defensive tackle Rocky Bernard said. “When you hear it from a coach, it’s one thing, but when you’re hearing it from the leader of your team, it’s another. It was good for this football team for him to stand up and say what he said.
“When you have this type of atmosphere, this type of game, you just try to do everything as normal as you do during the year. Try not to get distracted, try to keep focus.”
“He should know more than anybody how hectic things can be,” Boothe said. “So I think his message was great and to the point. We had a couple days to take care of all that other stuff, the outside influences, but when we’re here, we’re preparing. We know that there’s going to be more things to mess with our schedule in Indianapolis. We need to prepare this week as if we’re playing, because our schedule will be a little bit altered next week.”
*Bernard played for the Seattle Seahawks when they lost Super Bowl XL to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit. The sting of that defeat motivates him today.
“The feeling of losing - nobody remembers who was in the Super Bowl and lost,” Bernard said. “So, definitely, the motivation is to go in and win.
“It’s not a pretty sight, you know what I mean. You work so hard throughout the year. You end up short. It was a tough, tough loss.”
Bernard said players learn quickly that Super Sunday is unlike any other game day.
“The game was a different type of game, really,” he said. “You just have to prepare yourself. It’s a long day. You can’t get too excited too early.”
Bernard said the toughest part of the day was watching the Steelers celebrate their victory.
“You’re sitting on the bench, the confetti’s coming down – they tell you to hurry up and get off the field,” he said. “You don’t want to be there. It’s not a good feeling.”
*A reporter raised his voice to ask Manning what he said was “a two-part question.” The first part was, “Do you get tired of people asking you about your legacy?” Manning’s response was, “Can I say ‘yes’ and end that question?” He then gave what has become a standard response about trying to do his job and win a championship and paying no attention to the legacy talk.
*More Manning humor: He was asked what kind of impact his brother Peyton, the longtime quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, had on him for this game.
“He was very helpful in getting me some tickets to the game,” Manning said. “I think that’s one less thing that I have to worry about.”
*Seven Giants did not practice: Center David Baas (abdomen/neck), linebacker Chase Blackburn (calf), cornerback Will Blackmon (knee), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (shoulder), cornerback Corey Webster (hamstring) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (foot).
Coughlin said, “We are trying to be smart and not aggravate something that is there that will be able to be managed in a short amount of time and make sure that there is not anything else that happens.”
Baas and Blackman both said they expect to practice tomorrow.
“I got my neck issue and it should be fine,” Baas said. “I massage, ice, all the normal stuff. But (I) should be back out there tomorrow doing stuff.”
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) was limited. Safety Tyler Sash, who suffered a concussion in the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco, passed all of the required medical tests and practiced fully.