Practice had just ended, and Tom Coughlin stood near the end zone of the field at the Giants' training facility, his voice rising as he attempted to explain the importance of getting the message through to his team.
More than a week after the Giants' lethargic 24-17 loss to the Cowboys in the season opener, the coach is looking forward to reproducing the type of performance in Sunday's game against the Buccaneers that better resembles the team's championship run last season.
He has spent the past several days hammering the message home to his players and has demanded more from them in practice this week. Sharing those feelings after practice, his passion was no less pronounced.
"We know that as human beings, even though [the players] have been through the good times, they've got to face reality," he said. "There are no shortcuts in this business. It's all about paying the price, making the sacrifices, working hard. Nothing is the same from year to year. No two teams are ever the same. It's a whole new team, and this team has to learn its way again."
From what he has seen this week, the signs are encouraging. The tempo and energy of practice has improved from the week before, and Coughlin is getting a better vibe. But he knows this must be a sustained effort if the Giants are to make the kind of statement he wants to see after last week's clunker against the Cowboys.
As much as anything, Coughlin knows that being the hunted requires a different mind-set; as champions, the Giants need to understand that their opponents will summon greater effort than usual. The fact that many Giants players experienced this in 2008 should provide some mental advantage, although it certainly didn't show against Dallas.
"We handled it well [in 2008] and we played pretty darn well," said Coughlin, referring to a season in which the Giants went 11-1 before slumping down the stretch after Plaxico Burress' self-shooting. "It's simply an adjustment. We've been down that road before. We do have the blueprint."
Bottom line for the coach: "It's about the team. The 'we' is more important than the 'I' or the 'me,' and the egos have to be put aside to get to where we want to go."
Coughlin was visibly steamed after last week's loss and even suggested "there won't be any more blowing smoke up their rear ends," a reference to a sense of overconfidence he thought had been eliminated with his "build-the-bridge" mantra in training camp. Coughlin has sought to re-instill the sense of purpose the Giants played with toward the end of last season and into the playoffs.
"We have a new dedication to what we have to do, what we have to get done," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "We understand [opponents] are going to give us their best shot because we are the defending champions. We have to go out and prove . . . that we're good enough to get the job done."
Are they good enough?
"Let's not press the panic button," guard Chris Snee said. "You listen to enough talk radio and read enough articles to know the panic button has been pressed. Not from this locker room, though."
Defensive end Justin Tuck suggests the build-a-bridge idea remains intact.
"Building a bridge, who said it's going to be easy?" he said. "We still have a lot of work cut out for us. We know what we need to do. But there are always setbacks in construction. Hopefully, we can keep those to a minimum and get this bridge built."
The next work shift begins at 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Hard hats required.