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Giants anxious to show they are Super Bowl caliber

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin speaks to the

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin speaks to the media after a brief team practice at Timex Performance Center that served as the start of training camp. (July 26, 2013) Credit: James Escher

A year ago, they tried to build a bridge. Now they want to burn it.

After a pair of disheartening and lopsided losses to the Ravens and Falcons in Weeks 15 and 16 of the 2012 season, the Giants begin 2013 training camp looking to demonstrate that those efforts were not representative of their capabilities.

"Last year's experience at the end of the year was not a very pretty one," coach Tom Coughlin said Friday, the day the players reported to camp. "We didn't play as well as we're capable of playing. So I think that's on everybody's mind.

"We're better than that."

And they seem intent on proving it.

"I think 'hunger' is an understatement for what we have in mind, for what we're trying to pursue as far as the defense," safety Antrel Rolle said of coming back from allowing 67 points in those two season-defining games. "We're just trying to be more consistent, trying to definitely develop that intimidating factor."

Even Eli Manning, who once made training camp headlines by calling himself "elite," seems to recognize the need to back that up after a disappointingly long offseason.

"I'm coming in here energized with something to prove to myself and to my teammates, that we have got to get back to playing better football," Manning said. "I have to play at a higher level and we've got to get back to being precise and everything being done the right way to ensure that we're winning these games that we should be winning."

They seem to have the pieces in place for that. Victor Cruz is back with the team after missing the offseason with a contract hang-up. Hakeem Nicks should be healthy for the first time in more than a year. Manning clearly has a burning desire to erase the stumbles of last year and the ghosts of second-half swoons in the past.

"I think we can definitely do some big things," Cruz said. "I think we have all the talent in place, the tools. It's just a matter of us coming together as a team, as a family. If we can do that, the sky is the limit for us . . . I think the upside of this team is tremendous."

Which is why the Giants spent the first day of the season talking about the last day of the season, one they hope to be participating in across the parking lot at MetLife Stadium in February.

"Each year you're hungry for [a Super Bowl victory], and I'm hungry for my third," Manning said. "I'm hungry for each player . . . I think you want everybody to have that experience to know that you are the best team in the NFL that year."

Notes & quotes: Cruz said remarks about displeasure over his new contract compared to other top receivers were misinterpreted. "I don't feel underpaid at all," he said. "I was very excited about my contract, very excited about where I am with this team. I'm excited about the position that I'm in with this team and I'm excited about everything. I don't look at anybody else in terms of what they got and what I got. I'm excited about this team." . . . The Giants placed five players on active/PUP to start camp: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (back), G Chris Snee (hip), DT Markus Kuhn (knee), FB Henry Hynoski (knee) and CB Terrell Thomas (knee). All five are coming off surgery . . . C David Baas and WR Jerrell Jernigan did not participate in the conditioning drill but were not put on PUP . . . Coughlin joked that the bleachers and awnings set up for fans to watch training camp remind him of "the state fair." Practices are free and open to the public beginning Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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