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Giants bracing for battles with Bengals at practices

New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason lines up

New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason lines up a play on wide receiver Preston Parker during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. Photo Credit: Brad Penner

Odell Beckham Jr. is ready. Not just for the two practices the Giants will have with the Bengals in Cincinnati this week, but for whatever other activities accompany them on the field.

Namely, the possibility of fights.

"I know I play for the Giants and they play for the Bengals, so hopefully we're out there to get work, but whatever lies [ahead] is what lies there," said Beckham, whose enthusiasm on the field has led to several confrontations including a bench-clearing brawl against the Rams last season. "I don't expect to go out there and try and play a game on Tuesday, especially it being preseason as well. Just go out there to compete and get better. If they take it up to another level, then you just go with the flow. You just make sure you're smart about it."

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That seems to be the attitude of many of the Giants' players as they prepare for the Bengals and the almost inevitability that someone or something will spark a heated exchange between the two teams at some point. The teams are scheduled to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"It's going to be more chippy because it's chippy at practice here," said Giants linebacker Jon Beason of the three fights that have already taken place at camp. "You see scuffles break out and it's your own teammates, so imagine if it's an opposing team."

Imagine no longer.

The Giants are leaving for Cincinnati on Monday afternoon, and while Tom Coughlin has repeatedly reminded them to be on their best behavior, it will be difficult to maintain decorum. Whether a potential dustup is as nasty and violent as the brawl between Washington and Houston this past weekend - or the one between the Giants and Jets in 2005 that caused Coughlin's 10-year hiatus from participation in such practices - remains to be seen.

The Giants' coaches are hoping it isn't. But the players seem ready if it is.

"I'm sure it's going to be a heated practice, it's going to have that game intensity," said offensive lineman Justin Pugh, who has been preaching toughness for his group all camp. "I kind of would compare it to a Senior Bowl when you're there and everyone is trying to prove a point. They're going hard, even in practice. Sometimes when you're going against your own teammates, you may pull up a little bit and not want to hurt somebody. I feel like if you're going against someone [else], it's going to be live action when we're going out there and playing Cincinnati. As close as you can get to a game without being in one."

Beason said it is important for the Giants to "keep a level head" and not be "too prideful in terms of when a guy holds you or pushes you, the little extra stuff." He noted that "Cincinnati is a chippy group," and expects the workouts to be "faster, more physical."

One guy who shouldn't have to worry about the physicality is Eli Manning. The quarterback theoretically will be protected from the contact in practice by his force-field enabled red jersey - Friday's preseason game against the Bengals will be another story - but Manning said he is looking forward to the increased intensity.

"I think that's the intention," he said. "I think when you go against another defense, the energy should get picked up a little bit. I think maybe that's the reason the Giants, Coach Coughlin, Cincinnati want to do it."

The Giants clearly need to shake up the way they start their regular seasons, after losing six straight two seasons ago and then two straight last season. Lighting an early fuse could be just the thing to wake them from training camp monotony and get them ready for the Sept. 13 opener in Dallas.

But fuses lead to explosions (as the Giants know all too well thanks to Jason Pierre-Paul's fireworks mishap). The timing has to be just right. Too soon and Cincinnati could turn into Boom Town for the Giants.

The Bengals coaches have been lecturing their players as well.

"We want to get [work] done without any of the extracurricular," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told reporters. "Whether it being talking and so forth, all of the nonsense and horseplay, we don't need that. We're here to have two good days of work and football."

For Lewis and the Bengals, these will be their second joint practice sessions in the last three seasons. When the Giants were announced as the opponent for their preseason opener in the spring, he reached out to Coughlin and they began planning the practices.

"Coach [Coughlin] is not going to leave any stone unturned," Lewis said. "I think you have to have the confidence of the coaching staff, what you feel is important and what we both have agreed on."

Coughlin concurred, saying most of the details about drills, pacing and timing were worked out months ago.

Now it's just a matter of controlling the players.

"I think it's the responsibility of the coaches to set the tone, to say, 'Hey, we can be physical, we can play fast, but we're going to keep it safe and we're not going to have the fights,'" Manning said. "I think between Coach Lewis and Coach Coughlin, they'll set the stage right and make sure we are respectful and don't want any injuries or anybody to do anything stupid in those practices."


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