The Giants began their final round of minicamps, before the official commencement of August’s training camp, in search of tight end.
Fresh off the Monday release of injured tight end Jake Ballard (torn anterior cruciate ligament), the Giants are committed to finding another able body to pick up the slack.
Newcomer Martellus Bennett is still nursing a sore hamstring, rookie Adrien Robinson is behind the proverbial eight ball having missed most of the spring due to stipulations in the new collective bargaining agreement, and holdover Travis Beckum is also recuperating from his own ACL tear in the Super Bowl. Bear Pascoe is the only healthy tight end in minicamp.
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One guy who isn’t worried by the cumbersome tight end situation is quarterback Eli Manning. This will be the second-consecutive season in which Manning will enter the campaign with uncertainty at the position. Last summer it was the departure of Kevin Boss to Oakland, yet Ballard parlayed his newfound opportunity into career highs in receptions (38), yards (604), yards per catch (15.9) and touchdowns (four).
“Bear knows what he’s doing, knows the scheme, and knows the offense. He’s played for us, so he’s doing well. And we have some young guys, new guys like Martellus who’s coming into the system, so they’re trying to get caught up,” said Manning. “They’re all learning from Bear, so you at least have a guy who’s been here a little bit and knows what’s going on.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin marveled at the physical specimens at the tight end position.
“We do have some athletes there and some guys we hope are going to be able to really come through for us,” said Coughlin. “I think Travis Beckum will be back at some point in time. We have a lot of young guys that have a tremendous amount of learning to do. Some days it looks good and other days not so good. So this is something that is very important, very much needed. And so we continue with this process.”
The process with Bennett, who came into minicamp at an astonishing 291 pounds following, what he said, was an extensive weight-lifting program, is still a work in progress. While Coughlin hinted he’d rather see the former Cowboy playing at his usual 270-pound range, the head coach said for now all he cares about is getting Bennett back healthy.
“Martellus has been banged up a little bit, so he hasn’t been out there a whole lot, [but] I think he’s going to go this minicamp,” Coughlin said. “We need to have him out there, full speed, and getting caught up. He says he is going to try to go, [but] I would say he is probably 50-50 on what he can participate in. We will try to keep him a little bit under control so that he doesn’t get into that sore mode where he can’t do anything.”
Beckum is just looking to do anything, as the inactivity has been frustrating for the fourth-year player. Beckum briefly participated in Tuesday’s session, as he was seen jogging and cutting for the first portion (about 20 minutes) before heading to the sideline to ice down the knee.
While Coughlin said it’s “reasonable” to believe that Beckum will return, perhaps for the start of the season, the player is taking a cautious approach.
“I’m kind of taking it week-by-week, day-by-day, and whatever my knee tells me, I’m going to do,” Beckum said. “So if that’s PUP (the physically unable to perform list) or training camp, I’m going to go for it.”
Should Beckum land on the PUP list, it’ll mean he can’t join the 53-man roster until Week 6. The team will then have a three-week window in deciding to either activate him or shut him down for the remainder of the season.
Beckum is hoping to avoid all that and is working diligently to become a regular factor in the offense.
“I’ve done everything except running,” Beckum said. “I’ve been in the pool a lot and sprinting in the pool; a lot of trying to make my glutes, hamstrings and quads strong. All that stuff has a factor in how my knee will hold up.”
Should Bennett’s hamstring and Beckum’s knee hold up — and Pascoe continues to thrive in his “Joker” role — the Giants shouldn’t have any problems in the tight end position, essentially making all the hand-wringing over the position moot – just like last season.
Big Blue notes
»The Giants briefly addressed the DWI arrest of stalwart David Diehl: “Obviously we were aware of the situation. Since it is an ongoing legal matter, we will refrain from comment at this time. Although, we will say that David has been an outstanding representative of this organization for the past 10 years, and nobody knows more than David does what is expected of our players both on and off the field.”
For his part, Diehl was a stand-up guy in front of the media throng at his locker on Tuesday. The 10-year veteran showed contrition and guilt at allowing such a “distraction into the locker room.”
Diehl said he hopes his transgression can help people aware of the seriousness of drunk-driving. He added he hopes this one momentary lapse in judgement — something he said will never happen again — will not tarnish his good name: “I've worked hard during my career to set a positive example, and [Sunday] I fell far short of this standard. I apologize to my family, my fans, the New York Giants and the NFL. I made a poor decision that I sincerely regret, and, as always, take full responsibility for my actions. … Don’t put yourself in that situation of drinking and driving. No one is above the law or indestructible.”
Diehl won’t be in Albany, N.Y. for the start of training camp because the July 26 start date is the same day as his court appearance.
» The Giants got a shock on Tuesday afternoon when the Patriots claimed Ballard from waivers. The team had assumed he would clear waivers coming off the serious knee injury in the Super Bowl and be placed on injured reserve where he could rehab with a spot on the 2013 Giants roster assured. Instead, he will join the team he defeated in Super Bowl XLVI.
»The Giants re-signed defensive tackle Rocky Bernard following the release of Ballard. Bernard, 33, is an 11-year veteran who was one of the unsung heroes on the defensive line in last year’s Super Bowl run. This was the second-consecutive year in which Bernard was released by the team and then subsequently re-signed.
»Coughlin noted that the re-signing of Bernard had nothing to do with defensive tackle Shaun Rogers’s inability to work in the minicamps so far: “[Bernard is a] good football player that helps us in a lot of different ways. He’s a solid, solid guy. And he’s great in the classroom, [and] great with his teammates. He is a good, solid football player [and] we know exactly what we can get out of him. He is in excellent shape — his weight is outstanding — so you can’t have enough quality football players like him.”
»Cornerback Prince Amukamara has been recovering from an offseason injection meant to strengthen his surgically repaired foot, but he’s still not cleared to play in 11-on-11 drills: “I’m still not going full, but I’m still getting reps in seven-on-seven and team. I’m just not taking all the reps yet. He added that he and the team are just being “cautious.”
»As left tackle Will Beatty is still nursing a back injury, veteran left tackle Sean Locklear has been lining up with the starters, which includes left guard Kevin Boothe, center David Baas, right guard Chris Snee and right tackle Diehl. Rookie tackle Brandon Mosley has seen time at left guard with the second unit, which is no shock because all Giants offensive linemen need to be well-versed in dual positions.
»Cornerback Corey Webster rested his injured hamstring on Tuesday and didn’t participate in the OTA. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora also didn’t practice, but he’s just taking it slowly, according to the team. He “could do more” on Wednesday, according to the source.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8. He will be live tweeting from Giants minicamp all week.