Olivier Vernon spent most of his offseason training in Miami, just as he had done for, well, all of his life. He grew up there, went to college there and played the first four years of his NFL career there.
“I just wanted to stick to it,” the defensive end said on Tuesday after participating in the Giants’ first practice of mandatory minicamp. “If it isn’t broke, then I’m not fixing it.”
The problem for Vernon last year was that it was broke. His hand was. And while he played through it after suffering the injury in the opener, it wasn’t until the second half of the season that he began to produce at the level the Giants had hoped to see in his first season with the team. He had seven of his 8.5 sacks in 2016 during a five-week stretch from Nov. 6 to Dec. 4.
“The main thing is staying healthy,” Vernon said. “I started feeling better towards the end of the season but that’s football at the end of the day. You’re going to get banged up, so you just got to keep going and fight through.”
The last game of that seven-sack span was also the one in which Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a season-ending injury, essentially forcing the attention of every opposing offensive line on Vernon. He had just one half of a sack in the final four games of the season.
This year, Vernon and Pierre-Paul will be reunited. And they’ll be linked for the three seasons after that. JPP signed a long-term deal with the Giants this offseason and now they are both inked with the team through the 2020 season.
“I was just as happy as him,” Vernon said of his reaction to Pierre-Paul’s contract. “We had a great run, and we both played good on the field and I’m happy that he’s still here. I kept telling him before the season that he wasn’t going to go anywhere, so it came to fruition.”
It was Vernon who wasn’t on the field with his team for voluntary OTAs over the past three weeks, but he said he was in close contact with his teammates and coaches during that time. They were able to talk about little adjustments to the defense that are being planned out at this time of year and keep each other abreast of their progress.
“I’m just glad to be back with my teammates,” Vernon said of reporting for the mandatory minicamp. “I know these guys were grinding out here, so I was trying to grind the same way.”
A cut above
Ben McAdoo sported a new hairdo for minicamp, a slicked-back look that was a bit reminiscent of Pat Riley’s look.
“They’ve been pushing me,” McAdoo said of the players’ reaction to the coiffure. “Got to keep it fresh, right?”
This isn’t the first time McAdoo’s mop has drawn attention. Last season he came under fire for the look of his locks from none other than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie said in an WFAN interview: “Do you think Ben McAdoo will get a real haircut if they make the playoffs?” At the time McAdoo responded behind closed doors with a T-shirt that sported his image and the words “Benny With The Good Hair.” Some players were later seen wearing a similar T-shirt.
As for this new ‘do, the players had their fun with it.
“You can’t get on the head coach, ever, right?” Eli Manning said. “I thought it looked outstanding.”
McAdoo said DE Owa Odighizuwa was excused from mandatory minicamp for “personal reasons.” The third-year player posted cryptic statements on social media during the offseason suggesting that he would be stepping away from football. Odighizuwa remains on the team’s 90-man roster . . . TE Rhett Ellison, who missed most of OTAs with a calf injury, was well enough on Tuesday to participate in some walk-through snaps. “He’s pushing,” McAdoo said. “I don’t anticipate him going full-go here in this minicamp. I anticipate him for training camp” . . . CB Eli Apple and S Darian Thompson both missed Tuesday’s practice because of illness. McAdoo said there is a chance they could participate later in the week . . . G Justin Pugh watched from the sideline. McAdoo said he was “limited” but did not say why. Also working on the side were LB J.T. Thomas, coming off knee surgery last year, and WR Kevin Snead who injured his hamstring last week . . . S/LB Eric Pinkins registered an interception in practice off a tipped pass by David Webb . . . WR Sterling Shepard was the offensive standout from the first practice. “I think he went out and had a strong first day in camp,” McAdoo said of Shepard. “He really showed up well inside. Made a lot of plays.”