All of the Giants players and coaches locked arms during the playing of the national anthem Sunday in Philadelphia. Three of them did so while taking a knee in protest of social injustices. But once the game started, Eli Manning said he thought the team was thinking about football and not flags.
“We’re focused about going out there and doing our business and understand that we’re football players and we have a job to do on Sunday,” the quarterback said Tuesday. “I think we’ve done a good job of everybody sticking together, understanding the situation, but not letting it divide us. Understand, have empathy for each other and everybody’s different situation or environments or what they’ve experienced and deal with that, but understand once the kickoff starts, we have to focus on playing football.”
There has been no indication how the Giants will handle the pregame ceremonies in Tampa on Sunday. Olivier Vernon, one of the Giants who took a knee in Philadelphia, said afterward that he was not certain whether he would continue to do so.
Manning is convinced that whatever happens, it will not divide the Giants.
“I think it’s a strong team,” he said. “I think guys have a lot of respect for each other. They work hard, they get along with each other, great communication starting from the coaches going all the way down to the players and be able to handle things and whatever is thrown at us.”
These days, a lot is thrown at them. The one thing football teams and coaches hate most is distractions, and the Giants, like most NFL teams, seem to get one if not more every week. Whether it is one that rides the coattails of a national debate, such as the protests during the anthem, or ones unique to the Giants, such as Ben McAdoo’s public criticism of Manning last week or Odell Beckham Jr.’s touchdown celebrations this week, there is always something in the air to take the team away from straight football.
“With more (media) outlets, it’s going to be more stuff going on, more opportunities for distractions,” Manning said. “So, I think you have to do great as players of keeping things in the locker room, keeping things close and have a strong team, close team that you can handle all of those things.”
Manning said the Giants have had meetings to that point.
“We’ve had talks and we’ve had some opportunities to make sure everybody is on the same page,” he said. “I think the team is still strong and dedicated to going out there and doing what’s right and fixing the problems.”