Manning among many players organizing makeshift workouts
BEDMINSTER, N.J. -- Giants quarterback Eli Manning throws passes at a high school in Hoboken. Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas trains at a high-performance facility in Los Angeles. Giants center Shaun O'Hara lifts weights at gyms across New Jersey. It is Giants minicamp, the lockout edition, with teammates spread hither and yon.
"We would have welcomed the opportunity to go back and train in our facility," O'Hara said last week at Trump Bedminster Golf Club, where he was hosting a charity event to benefit the Shaun O'Hara Foundation, which raises money for Cystic Fibrosis. "We would have liked to have gotten together as a team to get ready for the season. There is no reason for us not to have [an agreement] in place before training camp. As we get closer to that, I think everybody understands that."
As the NFL lockout drags on -- and both sides wait for oral arguments to begin June 3 on the appeal of an injunction that temporarily forced teams to open their practice facilities -- players are being forced to find different ways to stay in shape and foster camaraderie.
Furthermore, several players are reminding teammates that just because they are locked out doesn't mean they can't get a jump on their opponents, if and when the season resumes. Richard Seymour, the veteran pass rusher of the Oakland Raiders, recently sent an e-mail to his teammates, inviting them to a four-day passing camp that starts Tuesday in Duluth, Ga. The camp will include on-field drills, weightlifting, swimming and nutritional counseling. Seymour will be in charge of defensive drills. Quarterback Jason Campbell will run the offense.
"Men, I hope everyone is well and staying in shape because we are going to out-work everyone we face this season," Seymour wrote in an e-mail to teammates, "and it starts right now in the offseason."
Seymour's camp is one of many taking place at a time when mini-camps and organized team activities would normally be held. Earlier this month in Mission Viejo, Calif., Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez hosted 14 teammates at a five-day passing camp catered by In-N-Out Burger.
Manning has spent part of his spring throwing passes to receiver Hakeem Nicks and tight end Kevin Boss, among others, on the artificial turf at Hoboken High in New Jersey.
Though Manning has a trainer supervising the drills, there are risks to players working out without the full complement of an NFL training staff. Should someone get injured in a player-run workout, he could end up on his team's non-football injury list and the team would not be required to pay him in 2011. With that knowledge, the players have had to weigh the pros and cons.
"I think some form of organized workout can be beneficial, but it's all about safety," O'Hara said. "There's no reason for players to have offense versus defense drills where guys are going hard at each other. That's not safe for us. I think we would all feel extremely horrible if a player suffered a catastrophic injury during a player-run workout."
Says Jets center Nick Mangold, when asked of his goal during the lockout: "Stay in shape and be as safe as possible. You don't want to have any crazy injuries come up."
Thomas, who had five interceptions for the Giants last season, has joined several NFL players at Athletes' Performance Institute in Los Angeles, where he trained in advance of the NFL combine three years ago.
"I think a lot of guys are starting to pump up their workouts so whenever the lockout ends we'll be ready to go," Thomas said. "It's not the same [intensity] as Justin Tuck against David Diehl [in practice] or me against Steve Smith, but you can still work on your backpedal or your press technique."
And so the players train and work where they can, studying old game tapes, watching the court calendar, wading through an uncertain spring.
"It's a lot of money and a lot of politics involved, and then you get into the court system and just becomes a long process," said Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield.
Added Giants defensive end Chris Canty: "You would like the opportunity to prepare, to get in the facility with your teammates and improve your football team and give yourself the best opportunity to put a quality product on the field come September. Guys just have to do the best they can right now and wait for the situation to sort itself out."