When the Giants returned to training camp Monday from a day off, Lorenzo Carter returned with an increased level of anticipation. It was, after all, the start of game week, and Carter, a rookie linebacker, knew that on Thursday night he would get to play in his first NFL game.
But when he entered the linebackers meeting room, he found he was alone in his enthusiasm.
“I was like ‘Nobody else is excited? Just me?’ ” Carter said of his reaction to the training camp as usual demeanors of his veteran teammates. “They told me that I should be excited. It’s my first game. Those are more experienced guys who have been there and done that.”
When the Giants face the Browns, though, hardly anyone on the Giants will have been there or done it this way. It’s the dawning of a new era in Giants football, not just for the rookies but for the seasoned veterans. They may have played in numerous preseason openers, but none has played for new coach Pat Shurmur in MetLife Stadium in the home uniforms.
“I think there is excitement to see the team out there,” Eli Manning said. “I don’t think it’s about a specific person, it’s about this group going out there. Especially this year, with a new offense and new players across the board at different spots. You just want to see how we’re going to work together and how guys are going to do in game situations. To see if their level of play stays the same, elevates, or goes down. You have to be able to do it in practice, but you have to be able to do it on game day as well.”
It’s fairly well documented and seems reasonable that the way a team performs in the preseason – particularly the preseason opener – has almost no bearing on the regular season. The Giants still have a month to get ready for their opener against the Jaguars, and they won’t be game-planning much for the Browns. This specific game, though, serves as a first impression for folks who want to believe the Giants will be an improved team in 2018 yet are still smarting from having their optimism duped a year ago.
The players, too, will be looking to see the first flashes of just what this team is ... and can become.
“This is a new start and a new team for me, and for a lot of guys this is a new start and a new team,” said running back Jonathan Stewart, heading into his 11th season after 10 with the Panthers. “I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people with high expectations who are very eager to see what we’re made of.”
“For sure,” he said.
Even the coaches have to find that out about themselves. Most have never worked in a game together, and Shurmur said he’ll be evaluating that process along with player performances.
“It’s important that we operate as a staff and getting in and out of the huddle, making sure we’ve got the right people on the field, and there’s a lot to be learned, especially between the first and the second preseason game, when you’re a new staff working together,” Shurmur said. “We have a blueprint for how we want to do it, but games are uncontrolled settings and there’s things that happen. So, the more uncontrolled things that happen in the game, the more opportunity you have to learn, and I think that’s what we’re looking for.”
Even the veteran linebackers who gave Carter a hard time about his early-week amplification are starting to come around to his level of excitement.
“It’ll be good to get everybody in a game atmosphere and see how things play out,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “We’ll really see where we’re at in this phase of it.”
And so, finally, after an offseason of improvements on paper, will everyone else.
Giants sign Basile. The Giants signed safety Mike Basile on Wednesday to fill the opening left when they released cornerback Teddy Williams on Monday. Basile played at Monmouth University. He might play Thursday without ever having practiced with the Giants.