The Giants began their second phase of the organized team activities this week and despite all the new faces they’ve added this offseason, the sight of a familiar one was the biggest story of the day.
Eli Manning, who is seven weeks removed from ankle surgery, was thought to be out for all spring activities — and maybe even part of training camp. But there he was throwing passes and handing off as if nothing ever happened.
The two-time Super Bowl MVP said he never doubted he’d be back for this round of OTAs.
“I think this was kind of my goal, to be back for OTAs. I figured [to return] seven weeks from the day until the first OTA, so I was hoping,” said Manning. “[The doctors] said it was a six-week [recovery], but they didn’t really tell me if it was six weeks until I could start doing things or six weeks until I’m full speed. But when they said six weeks, I kind of had it in my head that I should be ready. I knew early on after three weeks that I was feeling pretty good and could do a few things and was hoping that it could continue to heal quickly so I could be back for OTAs.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin wasn’t as matter of fact as Manning, as he marveled at the quarterback’s desire to get back on the field.
“He’s so far ahead. When we first started out, I didn’t think we’d have him for anything,” said Coughlin. “Two or three days into Phase II and he’s out there running around, and I’m trying to slow him down but he says he feels good. So, that said, I’m not surprised at all.”
While coaches and teammates alike were likely surprised at how well Manning has recovered and performed in practices, the signal caller said it was “highly important” to get back on the field as soon as possible.
The reason for the urgency is new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense isn’t easy to pick up and master. And considering it initially seemed that Manning wouldn’t see action until the Giants’ mid-June mandatory minicamp, getting him back earlier than expected is a boon to an offense that was below average at best last season.
And just as important, Manning will have a chance to get acquainted with rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and a bunch of unknown tight ends.
“It’s good to have him back so soon. That way he can get the reps during the spring here and then he will have the offense down by the time we break [after the June minicamp],” Coughlin said. “Then he’ll come back [for training camp] and he’ll be comfortable with it. … This is really good, a real good thing.”
Barring any physical setbacks, it looks as if Manning is largely back to work. While he hasn’t taken a hit yet — and will likely go untouched until the first preseason game in August’s Hall of Fame Game — Manning said he’ll gain an advantage in getting the necessary mental reps as McAdoo’s offense will take at least a “few weeks” to get a feel for.
McAdoo’s offense in Green Bay was notoriously uptempo and during the first day of Phase II, the practice and repetitions were as fast-paced as promised.
“The no-huddle part is faster, but I hope it gets better,” said Coughlin. “To be honest with you, I hope it gets faster.”
Manning also likes the tempo and is yearning for the day for it to be second nature.
“It’s been a learning experience, [but] I like everything. Everything makes sense. I feel good about how these last couple days have gone,” said Manning. “It’s not perfect, there are things that need to be improved, but I thought the last two days there have been some good plays where I felt in rhythm with the offense and what we’re trying to do. I don’t plan on taking days off. This week, we have three practices in a row. Most weeks you’ll have two and then a day off and then two more. We’re seeing how it responded and today, no swelling after practice, no discomfort, no issues. We’ll just keep going about our business, keep getting better out there on the field and take it one day a time and see how it feels.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.