When it comes to on-the-field issues in 2013, there will be plenty for the Giants to sort through when their three-day minicamp begins Tuesday. They need to figure out how to put together the jigsaw pieces of their offensive line, they have two relatively inexperienced running backs, their best pass rusher is on the shelf, and they have no surefire starters at linebacker.
The one position they might be strongest at, should be least worried about, is wide receiver. They'll have two potential Pro Bowlers lined up as targets for Eli Manning when the season does start.
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Yet that is the spot that will undoubtedly be the focus as the team wraps up its spring workouts, the final chance to spend time together on the field before summer vacation and the start of training camp in late July. With Victor Cruz still negotiating a long-term deal with the Giants and Hakeem Nicks staying away from voluntary OTAs for the last three weeks, it's the off-the-field drama that most will be watching closely.
Cruz is not expected to attend the camp, even though it is mandatory. Since he has not yet signed his restricted free-agent tender, he is technically not under contract and the Giants cannot punish him for his absence.
Nicks, on the other hand, still has one year remaining on his deal. So if he skips the minicamp, the Giants will be able to fine him up to $11,025 for missing the first day, $22,050 for the second day and $33,075 for the third day missed. If Nicks skips the entire minicamp, he could be out $66,150. That's why he will most likely show up.
"Hopefully, he's here tomorrow," Manning said Monday after noting that he had exchanged text messages with the receiver who has caught more of his NFL passes than anyone else. "I expect him to be there tomorrow, but we'll see."
Even if he does show up, there's no telling what Nicks will be able -- or willing -- to do. He had knee surgery this offseason, so the Giants will likely want to go easy on him. But there is a history of players showing up to minicamp to avoid their fines and then refusing to take the field. Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress both used that strategy against the Giants in minicamps in the past and Osi Umenyiora used it in training camp two years ago.
Manning, speaking at the 36th annual Guiding Eyes for the Blind Golf Classic at Mount Kisco Country Club, said he isn't sure how much Nicks will be on the field with him.
"Only he has that answer," the quarterback said. "We'll just have to see."
When it comes to the drama with their receivers, even the Giants themselves can't help but look.