There are few moments on an NFL calendar as uneventful as a typical minicamp practice, not to mention one at the back end of a two-a-day. Yet for the Giants, yesterday's workout proved to be not only thrill-inducing but also historic.
The New Meadowlands Stadium already has been awarded a Super Bowl, hosted games in several sports and rattled from concerts. But Tuesday afternoon, for the first time, it performed the duty for which it was really designed and built.
It housed football.
The Giants moved their second practice across the parking lot to the stadium to get a feel for the turf, the wind, the whole environment. And they opened the gates to allow about 7,000 or so fans to watch and turn the doldrums of a padless workout into an electric offseason pep rally.
"It's fun," Eli Manning said. "I thought it was good for our focus to have people yelling and saying stuff while we can keep our minds straight on what we need to do and what we're here for."
Tom Coughlin raved about the building and was impressed by "the crowd, the excitement, the energy." After the nearly two-hour practice, he took a microphone and reminded the fans of the importance of the "12th-man principle."
"This has been a very good experience to come in," Coughlin said. "I'm glad we did this on a beautiful spring day. The guys really appreciated it. It gives us a really good end to our first day of our minicamp."
There were even a few moments of buzz that had nothing to do with the stadium. Travis Beckum and Domenik Hixon made acrobatic catches in one-on-one drills. Cornerback Aaron Ross recovered from a tough morning workout - and a stutter move by Mario Manningham - to catch up to the receiver and break up a pass. The fans erupted when first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul batted down a pass from Jim Sorgi on a rollout. And there was even a minibrawl for a minicamp as Pierre-Paul and Rich Seubert got into it toward the end of the session.
In typical New York fashion, there were even some boos. The first cascade of displeasure was aimed at Ross, who muffed a punt.
As much as the fans were involved in the day, the real purpose was for the players and coaches to be introduced to their new home and all of its nuances.
"I think it's important that we came in here," Manning said. "To get used to the crowd, the different backgrounds, where the play clock is, get a feel for the turf, get a feel for the wind. We had a decently breezy day, which is good so when we come in here for preseason games or regular-season games we're prepared."
The turf also claimed its first victim. Hixon, who was returning a punt midway through the workout, snagged his right foot in the artificial surface and went down with what at first looked to be a serious knee injury. Eventually he walked off the field under his own power.
"This is a new field, so it has not been broken in yet," Justin Tuck said. "It's still kind of soft, so you have to wear the right cleats out here now."
The Giants will play the stadium's first regular-season game in September. In August they'll play the Jets in the first preseason game here. The Jets will practice at the stadium today, but as for yesterday, it was clear that the Giants felt comfortable at their new address, even if it's no longer called Giants Stadium.
"It's one proud organization we are to think of this as our home stadium," Coughlin said.