It was the first day of training camp, Damon Harrison had reported to the Giants’ facility just a couple of hours earlier, and already he needed a wardrobe change.
The big defensive lineman removed the T-shirt he was wearing — one emblazoned with his popular nickname, “Snacks” — and put on one that he had been given during the spring workouts.
Its message was simple, but Harrison wanted to make sure it got out there, even if subliminally.
“Make Gains,” it read across the front, followed by the goal for each day, “1%”
That’s what the Giants are looking for as they start their journey here in late July, one they hope will end in early February. To get that much better each day from here on out.
“We can’t get to January unless we take care of this week first,” Harrison said on Thursday, focusing on the present and the work that will go into striving for a Super Bowl.
That’s not to say Harrison has lost sight of that ultimate, big-picture finish line.
“The mission is still the same,” he said. “We don’t come here to be subpar.”
Harrison knows it does no good to talk about the end of the season when you are just about to begin it, but that hasn’t stopped others from looking down the road a bit. The day players report to training camp is filled with optimism and expectations at 32 sites across the country every year. This year, though, in this place, there is a sense that the Giants have what it takes to back up those dreams.
“I feel real confident and as a team we feel really confident,” second-year cornerback Eli Apple said. “Just trying to build off of what we had last year. I think with the group of guys we have and the new guys who are coming in too, I think we have something real special . . . The guys, I can see the excitement in their looks. They just know what kind of team we have and what kind of season we’re expecting ourselves to have if we put our work in.”
Balancing those two focuses — winning six months from now and preparing for the first practice of camp on Friday — was the main goal on Thursday when Ben McAdoo met with the team. He gave them what he called a “road map,” a calendar that lays out what will happen each day between now and, theoretically, a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan on or about Feb. 6, 2018. But McAdoo also reminded them that they need to be myopic and pay attention to the here and now.
“It’s my job to focus on the goal of organization,” he said. “I need to paint that picture. But at the same point in time, we need to understand what it’s going to take to get there. What it’s going to take to get there is to be great day to day.”
To be that kind of team — a Super Bowl contender — they have to improve in a few areas. The Giants believe they have. While the troubled offensive line of last season is mostly intact, its members believe they will be better. Center Weston Richburg said the players should take the fact that the front office did not completely overhaul the unit as “a vote of confidence” in them, and guard Justin Pugh said the group has what it takes to get the team where it wants to go.
“We have a lot of things to look forward to this year,” Pugh said. “Going into my fifth camp, this is the best team we’ve had on paper. But at the end of the day, you can’t have a team on paper that’s not going out there and winning games on Sundays. You have to go out there and put in work and produce.”
That begins now.
“Everybody’s expectation is to win the Lombardi [Trophy], and we’re not an exception to that,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “But I know it starts with one day of work. We started today and we have a lot of days to go until we get to that point.”