Giants 'D' embraces new attitude
BY ARTHUR STAPLE
June 15, 2007
It seems like a simple thing, maybe even an insult to make professionals do in practice. But one of the first things new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo told his players has become a small symbol of how much has changed already for a Giants defense that didn't live up to expectations the past few seasons.
When the football hits the ground for any reason before the play is called, all 11 defenders have to run to it. So it can look a bit silly to onlookers when Sam Madison bats away a pass, scurries to his feet and runs away with the ball, followed by 10 other guys in the dark-blue jerseys the defense wears.
"Honestly, we're out there having fun, and we're doing something that might help us during the season," Madison said. "We're not out here doing something just to do it, just because someone told us to. There were some live balls on the ground last season I thought we could have gotten to as a defense."
That none of the defensive players, from Madison and Antonio Pierce down to the backups and rookies, was insulted means something, too. "When you're not a top five or top 10 defense, you've got a lot to learn," Pierce said. "We can't say anything about not doing something he's asked, because we weren't successful."
The returnees weren't happy with coordinator Tim Lewis, who was fired in January. There were whispers the last two seasons about Lewis and his negative, occasionally condescending attitude. Those whispers are full-throated conversations now, and players' feelings about Lewis are reflected in what they say about Spagnuolo.
"It's the way he talks to guys. He encourages, he's positive. He doesn't discourage," Gibril Wilson said. "I haven't seen him get in a guy's face and curse him out. He knows how to get his point across."
"He looks you in the eye and speaks to you, man to man," end Osi Umenyiora said. "You have to respect that."
Since the Organized Team Activity period began three weeks ago, the defense has broken huddles with loud claps, and there's very little walking between drills. While the offense has looked disjointed the first two days of minicamp, with numerous interceptions and blitzes blowing up several runs, the defense has been much sharper.
"I think, coming in last year, there were a lot of established guys and a coordinator that was here already, so [OTAs and minicamp] were really a time to fine-tune things," second-year tackle Barry Cofield said. "We're really getting back to basics now. It feels like a breath of fresh air. Guys are really buying in."
Notes & quotes: CB Aaron Ross, a first-round pick, sat out after banging his head on the turf at Wednesday afternoon's practice. Umenyiora missed the morning practice with an undisclosed injury ... Rookie DT Jay Alford signed a four-year deal.