The key word to described OTAs, as far as Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks apparently is concerned is “voluntary.” Everyone else on the roster except free agent wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is mired in contract negotiations, has “volunteered” to work out, but Nicks remained absent for the third straight week.
The media is allowed to attend one OTA per week, so, coach Tom Coughlin engaged in what has become a ritual update on Nicks’ status. “No, there is no change,” Coughlin said of his wayward receiver. “I have not spoken to him.”
Coughlin said he expects to see Nicks, who is on the mend from knee surgery, at next week’s mandatory camp but probably not Cruz. “I think Cruz is in a different category,” said Coughlin, respecting Cruz’s free-agent rights. Nicks may be fined upwards of $60,000 if he skips all three days of the mandatory minicamp.
The coach permitted himself a tight smile when asked if he might feel the need to clear the air with Nicks if he shows next week. “That might happen, yeah, I would think,” Coughlin said.
He then admitted he still has no definitive answer to explain the absence of Nicks, whose agent strongly has denied any connection to a contract issue. “I don’t know any more information than I did the day he went home for the weekend,” Coughlin said of his last Nicks sighting.
The one who might suffer most from the absence of his starting receivers is quarterback Eli Manning. Second-year wideout Reuben Randle and veteran free agent Louis Murphy are running first team now.
Manning knows experienced players such as Nicks and Cruz can step back in during training camp this summer and be perfectly ready to play when the season begins. But he values this time, too.
“They know the offense; they know what they’re doing; they’ve played in big games,” Manning said. “They’ve run these plays hundreds of times before, and so, they’ll be able to get back in the flow of things. But you still would like them here to work on things we didn’t do as well last year, areas where we want to try and improve stuff. They know what they’re doing. It’s just a matter of improving how they’re doing it sometimes.”
Earlier this spring, Manning held a mini passing camp attended by Nicks and Cruz at Duke University. Asked if he knew then he might not see them for awhile, the quarterback shrugged and said, “Well, I knew there was a chance with Victor. He didn’t have a contract. You got some work there, but I was hoping that would be a little starter course to the spring and not a substitute for what we’re doing on the field right now.”