Anyone who has been around the Giants this season knows the kind of shadow the former offensive linemen cast on the current group. On Thursday, though, that shadow came close to being an intrusion.
Former Giants center and current NFL analyst Shaun O'Hara tweeted his frustration about having three of the team's projected starters missing practice on Thursday. "What the hell is going on!" he wrote. "3 @Giants OL sitting out today (4 if u count Beatty) after a day off on Tues. So much for that Toughness!"
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The Giants began camp talking about increasing their toughness up front and being more like the lines of O'Hara's day that also included Chris Snee and Rich Seubert (both on hand to watch Thursday; O'Hara was in Los Angeles for the network). The 2008 line has loomed large in the minds of current-day Giants as they try to emulate the success and personality of that group.
"I talked to Shaun," starting lineman and offensive ironman of this training camp Justin Pugh said on Friday, revealing texts he and O'Hara exchanged. "Shaun is a great guy. He wants to be in that room, he cares about this organization. I think it's just frustration and I think a lot of guys would maybe feel that way if there were guys not playing. I think he's looking out for us as much as we are. If he was in that room he'd be saying, 'Guys, we want to get you back on the field as quick as possible so we can get better.' The goal is to win and we have to have those guys out there to win some games."
Pugh said he respects O'Hara for texting him about the Tweet (which really had nothing to do with Pugh since he's the only projected starter who has not missed a rep this summer). He said O'Hara did not apologize for the public message and stood by it.
"Obviously if you have four projected starters, you would love to have them out there to get in the mix, to start building that gel and that camaraderie, it would be huge. We hurt not having those guys out there."
Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, who was also the line coach during O'Hara's time with the team, said his former pupil does not have all of the information.
"That's one man's opinion," Flaherty said. "I don't question their toughness because I know and I understand what they're going through ... You do have to work through some hurts and some pains, but the injuries, that's totally different."
For many of the linemen, that's the case. Will Beatty is out with a torn pectoral and won't be back until the fall. Ereck Flowers has a sore hip flexor. Weston Richburg had tendinitis in his knee. Geoff Schwartz is coming off ankle surgery.
That's not to say that Flaherty doesn't wish his projected starters would be on the field. And he's not alone.
"I believe they want to be out there," he said. "As a group, we need them out there."