Official training camp may not start until the end of July, but that doesn’t mean it has been quiet around MetLife Stadium. Yesterday, in addition to being the first time the rookies got a chance to get onto the practice field, the New York Giants said a fond farewell to one of their own, Justin Tuck.
Tuck, 33, signed a one-day contract so he could retire with the Giants and will inevitably come back to the stadium to be added to the Ring of Honor. Over the course of his 11-year career he was a two-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Pro Bowler and defensive captain for the Giants. Tuck spent the last two years playing in Oakland, but it was apparent in his farewell speech yesterday that his heart never left Big Blue. A third-round pick in 2005 out of Notre Dame, Tuck may have well still had the ‘C’ on his chest yesterday as he let the rookies know that nothing will be given to them and he urged them all to aim for greatness.
Altogether, 73 players took the field for the Giants on Friday. It was a mix of rookies, undrafted free agents and tryout players. After a preference to go large-school with the draft selections this year, there were plenty of players from smaller programs as well as an assortment of Canadians represented Friday.
Let’s highlight a couple that may have a chance of making some noise as training camp gets closer. First there are the undrafted free agents. The NFL has seen players such as Wes Welker, Tony Romo, and Antonio Gates go from undrafted to superstars. This year the Giants brought in a couple players that pundits believed would be Day 3 selections in the NFL Draft including WR Roger Lewis (Bowling State) and DT Greg Milhouse (Campbell). There are players who caught scouts attention with solid workouts like TE Ryan Malleck (Virginia Tech), CB Michael Hunter (Oklahoma State) and WR Darius Powe (Cal). Finally there were players who showed production or promise at the collegiate level such as Liberty QB Josh Woodrum (set a Liberty record with over 10k passing yards), DB Andrew Adams from UConn, CB Donte Deayon (Boise State), DE Romeo Okwara (led Notre Dame in sacks the last two seasons), DE Mike Rose (10.5 sacks for NC State last season) and WR KJ Maye (73 rec, 773 yards, 5 TD at Minnesota).
Unfortunately there are not many open roster spots for these players to fill, but as we saw just a few years ago with a young receiver from UMass with a penchant for salsa-dancing in the endzone, the path to fulfilling a dream to play in the NFL is a possibility and they must take full advantage of every opportunity. While we can’t expect every one of these players to be Victor Cruz, over the next few weeks we’ll have a better idea of which players will suit up in training camp and we can dive deeper into the roster to see where these opportunities may exist.
The Giants are now about four months away from a Week 1 matchup in Dallas and they hope that while he will not be on the field leading them, the words and work ethic of Justin Tuck can brush off on the young hopefuls and the overall level of competition on the roster can end the playoff drought.