The last time a group of Giants went on a boat trip in Florida it did not end well.
That was back in early 2017, when the team had made the playoffs but a group of wide receivers ducked down to Miami prior to the wild card game in Green Bay. Whether or not it actually affected the outcome of the game which the Giants lost is debatable, but it was seen as a distraction, an unnecessary deviation from the trajectory the team was trying to achieve.
They haven’t been back to the postseason since. Haven’t had a winning season since. Are on their third head coach since. Have only one player on the current roster who was part of that season which may or may not have been sunk somewhere in Biscayne Bay.
This offseason, though, several Giants were afloat in the Sunshine State once again, although in a very different context. The team’s defensive backs gathered there to spend some time bonding and working out at the home of Logan Ryan, the Giants safety who a year ago at this time was neither a Giant nor a safety. At one point during their informal camp they hit the high seas and while they did not catch any fish, Ryan said they were able to hook something more important.
"It was really a great bonding opportunity," Ryan said.
On Tuesday, the Giants were on the field as one full team for the first time this offseason with the start of the mandatory minicamp. All of the previous opportunities for on-field work were during voluntary OTAs, and while the Giants had a decent turnout for most of those practices, there were plenty of notable absences too. The defensive backs, chief among them.
That kind of attendance might normally drive a head coach bonkers, but Joe Judge knew that his guys were working on football — and getting to know each other — on their own.
"I think that's great," Judge said of the private gatherings, not only among the defensive backs but ones organized among the offensive linemen, defensive linemen, and quarterbacks and receivers too. "Look, the more your team can be together and bond and build chemistry and work together, the better that is for your locker room. We have great character on our team and it shows up when they are away from the facility and their work ethic. And they know what to expect when they come back."
It was Daniel Jones who brought many teammates together for workouts in Arizona and North Carolina during the portion of the offseason when the players were not permitted to be working at the team’s facility. That’s where he first started getting to know new wide receiver Kenny Golladay and refine his timing with other more familiar targets. Jones and Golladay have continued to work together on their own a number of times since the receiver signed with the Giants.
"That’s my boy," Golladay said of his burgeoning relationship with Jones. "It was me getting a feel for him and him getting a feel for me. It was actually all of the receivers chillin’ and then going and working out."
Ryan was among them, too. He immediately saw the benefit of such gatherings and decided to host the defensive backs.
"You don’t see it as often for defensive players," he said, "but I felt like I had the setup and I really just wanted to bring the guys down and just have some time to ourselves to bond."
So for a few days they talked shop.
"[James] Bradberry was telling stories about how we was covering this guy, Adoree’ [Jackson] was telling stories, I was telling stories from my corner days," Ryan said. "It was a cool time."
Ryan said he was most impressed by "how many guys wanted to be there, how many guys wanted to learn." He said second-year safety Xavier McKinney was chief among the inquisitors in that regard. "He really wants to pick my brain and pick our brain on how to do things," Ryan said. "That’s very different from what you hear about the modern-day athlete and how they learn."
While Ryan was offering advice, he was also soliciting it during the offseason. He said he reached out to Antrel Rolle, Jason Sehorn and Corey Webster asking them for tips on being a better player and a better leader.
"I was an empty cup and they definitely filled it up," Ryan said.
Whether he can do what those players did — help lead their team to the Super Bowl and, in two of the cases, win it — is still an unanswered question. As is whether this offseason’s cruising (and various other activities) can help them avoid Davy Jones’ locker in favor of Daniel Jones’ locker room.
But as the current defensive backs and their undisputed captain bobbed on the Florida waters, it must have felt as if anything was possible with the immediate future of the team as vast and deep as the ocean itself.
"I was inspired by the bonding that took place," Ryan said. "It’s going to be special. It’s going to pay off."