The skeleton crew of four players who showed up at Hoboken High Monday morning to throw the ball around with Eli Manning included an unfamiliar face, but the Giants' quarterback welcomed rookie running back Da'Rel Scott to the fold by complimenting him on his "soft hands."
Or so Scott said after the workout ended. Once again, Manning declined interviews with a smile, and backup tight end Travis Beckum and wide receivers Michael Clayton and Victor Cruz also left without comment following a session lasting just over an hour in misty conditions.
But it was a big deal for Scott (pictured above in red uniform) who now has a story to tell about how he broke into the NFL during the lockout of 2011. When Scott heard Manning was working with a few receivers, the seventh-round pick out of Maryland recognized a golden opportunity to forge a bond with the quarterback and demonstrate his commitment to making the Giants whenever the lockout ends.
"Definitely, especially being a seventh-round draft pick," Scott said. "You've got to try and get the offense as quick as possible. So, I just wanted him [Manning] to talk me through it a little bit because I'm a smart guy and I can pick up on it a little bit. I picked up on a couple offensive routes today, and it felt pretty good."
Scott said he had some "sources" who put him in contact with Manning, and they exchanged e-mails for a week or so to schedule a time for Scott to join the informal workouts. "He knew who I was the moment I walked up because we kept in touch," Scott said. "It was a good feeling being here with Eli. He said, 'It would be great for you to come up.' So we exchanged numbers, and it went from there.
"I already knew he was a great character guy. He's all about business, and you can tell the way he kind of got everybody together and didn't worry about the lockout and just tried to get better as a team."
While the other three receivers ran familiar pass patterns, Scott spent much of his time lining up in the backfield and then executing the blocking protection schemes that Manning explained to him. If Scott learns where he's supposed to be for blitz pickup, he'll have a head start on making the team, not to mention getting on Manning's good side.
"He just told me about the protection and which way to go and how to break your routes off depending if it's man, zone, cover-3 or cover-2," Scott said of Manning.
During an injury-plagued career at Maryland, Scott spent most of his time running the ball. He totaled 2,401 career rushing yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring 17 rushing touchdowns. He was particularly impressive in two bowl performances. Suspended for a half for a curfew violation before the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl, Scott entered the game midway through the third quarter and proceeded to rush for a Terrapins bowl record of 174 yards. He topped that mark in the 2010 Military Bowl with 200 yards on 13 carries, including TD runs of 61 and 91 yards.
But what really caught the eye of Giants' general manager Jerry Reese was the 4.33 40-yard dash time clocked by Scott. He was used sparingly as a pass receiver at Maryland, catching 14 passes for a 12.1 yards average and one touchdown as a senior, but Scott envisions a role for himself as the Giants' third-down back.
"I think that's a big dimension I can help the Giants with -- my catching ability out of the backfield," Scott said. "Eli already mentioned I have good, soft hands. That's good for him to even comment on that. He knows he has a guy he can go to out of the backfield."
On a damp May morning, the sounds of New Meadowlands Stadium on a Sunday afternoon seemed far away, but for the rookie Scott, the chance to practice with Manning was a positive first step toward an NFL career.