Justin Pugh spent part of his offseason working with Jay Glazer and his MMA athletes in California. He didn't bring improved technique or strength when he returned to the Giants, though. He brought a new mindset.
"I gained an advantage," Pugh said Thursday when the team reported to training camp. "I was able to work on a mentality out there, a fighter's mentality. You go across from a guy and you make it a long day for him. You're going to make that guy wish he didn't go up against you."
It's an attitude he hopes to infuse in the rest of the offensive line this season.
"The mentality has to be the biggest thing that we keep harping on, being a group of tough guys," he said.
Pugh went on to say that he has been watching tape of the 2008 Giants' offensive line and how they dominated opponents.
"They were just a bunch of tough guys," Pugh said. "After plays there was a little extra stuff. Between the whistles, they were knocking guys down. No one really wanted to play against them . . . Watching [Chris] Snee, [Rich] Seubert, all those guys in there, I definitely got an appreciation and I want to try to emulate the way they play the game."
Eli Manning, who won many games behind that group, said he sees the seeds of similarity in his current protectors.
"I like big, mean, nasty offensive linemen,'' Manning said. "If you could grow them, that's the way you would grow them. I think this group has a little of that in them . . . They get along well, they work well together, they compete at practice, they like being challenged, they take it seriously. So from that aspect, they've got a little toughness to them. There can be some similarities.''
The biggest matter may be consistency. The line struggled during the last two years mostly because of injuries that forced changes on the fly. They lost projected left tackle Will Beatty at the outset of spring workouts this year with a torn pectoral muscle, but since then, they have had the same unit together. That includes rookie Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Weston Richburg at center, Geoff Schwartz at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.
Schwartz said he has no reason to believe that lineup will change.
As for toughness, he said it has to be more than a buzzword.
"We have to run the ball better, there's no question about that,'' he said. "I think [toughness] goes along with the run game. Not many offensive lines that run the ball well aren't considered tough. But you have to go do it, not talk about it, but do it by force.''
Pugh said he saw some of that same intensity in California when he was wrestling with UFC champion Rashad Evans.
"He has that mentality at all times to just go, go, go and break guys down," Pugh said. "I think that's the mentality we have to have."
Pugh admitted that the offensive lines of his first two seasons didn't always have that killer instinct. Now, though, he's putting himself in charge of making sure everyone has the nastiness he wants to see.
"I think guys have it, it's just bringing it out in some guys," he said. "Some guys you'll be training with them and make them mad and all of a sudden you see a different side of them. It's to keep that side out full-time. It's definitely a mentality that can be trained and it can be learned. It's in you, and if you can bring it out, those are the guys who are the great fighters and great players."