Giants open camp eager to build on title

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

The Giants' veterans reported to minicamp on Thursday still basking in their second Super Bowl title in four years.
And unlike most Giants camps, this one opened with no major drama. There are no threats of holdouts, coach Tom Coughlin's job security certainly isn't in question and the team is back working out in Albany after last year's lockout forced camp to move to New Jersey.
"I'm sure we'll find some distractions," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka joked. "I'm sure you guys will find something to make a distraction, but I mean, everything is in the right place right now. So, looking forward to it."
Wide receiver Victor Cruz may be one of the most underpaid players in the NFL, but he's not going to make his contract a public squabble. Cruz was third in the NFL in receiving last season with 82 catches for 1,536 yards, but is scheduled to make just $540,000 in 2012 and can become a restricted free agent next offseason.
"I don't need a contract to stay motivated," Cruz said. "I just want to win, and just the thrill of winning with my team, and winning at home in New York, a place where I grew up, that's all the motivation I need to play football, and to continue playing the sport I love so I don't think a contract is something that will motivate me."
While quarterback Michael Vick called the Eagles a potential dynasty and Panthers center Ryan Kalil took out a newspaper ad predicting a Super Bowl title, the Giants continue to somehow fly under the radar.
"I mean, until you lose, you've got to be called the best right? I mean, it's a new year, it's a new season, but we have the crown and we've got that target on our back and we know it," Kiwanuka said. "That's why we're going to look at it that way. Not to put ourselves above anybody, but just to remember that when we play a team, we're going to get their best game, we're going to get their best shot."
One big edge for the Giants is continuity. The coach staff remains intact and almost all the starters played significant minutes last season.
"That doesn't happen all the time and we know it, so that's one of the things we've got to take advantage of," said Kiwanuka.
With the Super Bowl title came more off-field opportunities for the Giants, and Cruz was a particularly popular player since the end of last season. His face is splashed across billboards and promotions, and he arrived in Albany driving a new car, but he maintains to be anything but complacent.
"There is a lot more of my career to accomplish. A lot more for us as a team to accomplish," he said. "We're relatively young, and we understand that our time is now. We want to continue to keep that pressure on ourselves, to keep winning, keep performing at a high level. Our teammates do a good job of keeping everybody humble."
One of the motivating factors is knowing the Giants were 9-7 during the regular season, and it took a dramatic six-game run to claim the Lombardi Trophy. That has kept the critics vocal and the Giants determined to prove they're indeed at the top of the NFL world.
"We were 9-7 last year in the regular season. That's not good enough," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We were a better team than that. Obviously we showed that throughout the playoffs. We've got to have that urgency, that consistency, throughout the whole season and play our best football for the 16 regular season games. That's what we're going to work on and just keep grinding, staying hungry to get better and to make sure we can have another successful year this year."

--One of the newest Giants is tight end Martellus Bennett, who was signed away from division-rival Dallas, where he served as Jason Witten's backup. Bennett said was excited to get to training camp, and had no awkwardness putting on a Giants jersey.
"I really just want to kick those guys' a-es. You know what I'm saying?" Bennett said, referring to the Cowboys. "That's what it's all about, you know? I mean, we're cool, but we ain't that cool. I kind of got some ill feelings towards them. It's a game. Every game is the same way. I kind of hate everybody, honestly, in the NFL."
Not that the two games against Dallas in 2012 are circled on his calendar.
"I have everybody's date marked on my calendar, honestly," Bennett said. "I'm kind of pissed off about a whole lot, so I think it'll be a good year for me."

What to Read Next