The opening of training camp is supposed to be a time of unbridled optimism and unimagined possibility. It's a new beginning, the kickoff to what each and every player and team hopes will be a six-month march to a Super Bowl victory.
So why does it feel like the Giants already have been flagged for a false start?
They begin the regrouping process Thursday -- and practices on Friday -- with more questions and doubts than when they ended 2014 with a second consecutive losing record and team president John Mara saying 2015 would be a make-or-break season for many in the organization.
The last two seasons have been utter disappointments. This offseason has been disconcerting. The Giants take the field this week looking to alleviate those frustrations and failures, to secure the legacies of many in the organization, and not allow themselves to be defined by the misfortunes of spring and summer. All this on a path made considerably more steep over the last few months.
They have no idea when Jason Pierre-Paul will be available, and in what capacity he will be able to perform due to the reported loss of his right index finger in a fireworks mishap on July 4. They are forced by Will Beatty's torn pectoral to thrust rookie Ereck Flowers, a player they were hoping to coach and mold into an NFL-caliber left tackle over the course of a season or two, into the all-important position of protecting Eli Manning's blind side. They still do not have anyone on the roster with a significant number of career starts at safety and could very well wind up with two players making their first career starts at the position in the opener in Dallas on Sept. 13.
Even the brightness of Odell Beckham Jr.'s rising star is routinely eclipsed by hamstring troubles and hotheaded comments and actions that stir more controversies than quell them.
For a franchise that thrives on consistency and calm, the last few months have been a torturous time of uncertainty. An impromptu ranking of the five most important players for this year's team heading into the start of the spring workouts -- Manning, Pierre-Paul, Beatty, Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz -- now sees four of them with very serious questions that need to be answered.
It hasn't been an offseason, it's been an awful season. Can you blame them for clinging to the one element of stability for the past decade and trying to extend Manning before the start of the final season of his current contract? They'd like to have at least one piece to count on moving forward.
Ironically the one player they knew they would have to monitor and hope made a full recovery -- Cruz, returning from a torn patellar tendon -- seems to be one they have the least to be concerned about. Cruz has remained on a steady track to return at the start of training camp and all indications are that he will be on the field and ready to go (even if the Giants rein in his reps for the first few weeks).
There will be plenty of reminders of recent Giants championships on display during this preseason. Cruz and Manning. Tom Coughlin. The return of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his history lessons on the team's great defenses of yesteryear. The Giants are even celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1990 championship team this summer and plenty of players from that team will be around the facility.
But this training camp, this season really, will be less about appreciating the accomplishments of the past and more defining the direction of the franchise in the immediate future.