The Giants began their final phase of offseason workouts this week with wideout Hakeem Nicks making a triumphant return to the field.
Perhaps it was the fact that these workouts were mandatory, which means players under contract would be subject to fines for missing these gatherings, but Nicks was finally in attendance after missing the previous two voluntary minicamp sessions and tried to act as if nothing happened.
The veteran receiver was ready to leave the past right where it was and faultlessly report back to the team facilities, trying his hardest to gloss over the minor controversy that he created by abstaining from the workouts.
“I’m not here to talk about that,” Nicks said. “I’m here to talk about the [organized team activities]. I’m here and happy to be back with my teammates.”
Nicks, however, eventually showed some contrition for the distraction he might’ve caused a team that frowns upon sideshow antics.
“I never wanted to be detrimental in no kind of way to the organization because they’ve always been nothing but good to me,” said Nicks. “But as far as the distraction, the guys told me they didn’t feel as if it was too much of a distraction. I took care of what I needed to take care of and I’m here now, so that’s all that matters.”
He further admitted he should’ve been more forthright with head coach Tom Coughlin, who repeatedly acknowledged in prior OTA gatherings he had no idea why Nicks was absence.
Coughlin finally got the chance to talk to his star receiver, but didn’t reveal what was said in the meeting.
“We talked [and] we’ll talk again, [but] that’s between he and I,” said Coughlin, who added that Nicks’s time away has left him a step behind. “He got some work in today and that was good, [but] he’s definitely not in tune with where we are. We’ve had nine OTAs and we’ve thrown a lot at him. He’s just had one meeting. If he’s around, he’ll pick it up quick and he’ll get it fast. It will make a big difference once we get him here for some extended time, which this camp is not going to allow us. But at least he’s here and he’s working.”
The former University of North Carolina star said he was working out on his own back in North Carolina, rehabbing from his knee issues, and trying to get himself ready for July’s training camp.
Nicks, like Coughlin, wouldn’t delve into their conversation, but reasoned that all’s well and he’s now yearning to distance himself from the controversy.
“I feel where he was [coming] from. I could’ve done a better job reaching out. We finally got to talk and gotten things straightened out. Coach Coughlin, that’s my guy, so that relationship can’t go sour. I’m here now and he’s very excited to see me,” said Nicks, who then refused to address the speculation that his absence was contract related, or knee related. “I told y’all back in the spring that I’ll never talk about my contract through the media. ... I’m healthy and the knee is feeling good. I’ll go upstairs and talk to coach Coughlin and the trainers later to see how much I can do and take it from there. My whole expectation is to be full-go by training camp [and] I don’t foresee any reason not to be there.”
Quarterback Eli Manning also doesn’t foresee any problems from Nicks’s publicized hiatus, adding the only time he even thought about his wideout not being there was when he’s asked by the media.
“That’s the only time [Nicks’s absence] is in my mind. I haven’t made it a big deal,” said Manning. “It should be good to have [Nicks] here and see what he can do and go out there and have a good practice. But I’m just trying to make sure I’m having great reps in practice and doing my job and whoever is out there on the field, [I’m] talking with them throughout the day, throughout the practice, and making sure we’re all getting better.”
Coughlin hopes Nicks and Manning do more than just talk between now and the start of training camp at the end of July.
“I would hope that they would do some work between now and then together so that they would make up for some lost time,” Coughlin said. “The one thing I did mention to [Nicks] is you’ve got to kind of go out in the backyard like you did when you were a kid with the quarterback and you guys get on the same page.”
Nicks said he’s excited to reacquaint himself with his quarterback, adding he’s getting better by the day. He also noted that he’s not that far behind, contrary to what Coughlin said, and feels that once he’s allowed to go full-bore he’ll step back into his role seamlessly.
“There was nothing too much new to me in this offense so it was just basically getting back into a routine with the offense,” Nicks said. “Everything is like clockwork with me in this offense.”
Big Blue notes ...
» Nicks also talked about fellow starting wideout Victor Cruz, who’s in the midst of a contract squabble with the front office, though he did not say much.
“That’s his situation,” Nicks said. “I’ve talked to Cruz, though, and his mind’s in the right spot. He understands the business side of it, but he still loves his team and still wants to be here.”
» Nicks acknowledged that he spoke to general manager Jerry Reese about his situation upon his return and the relationship didn’t seem to suffer at all.
“Everybody was happy to see me,” Nicks said. “Nobody gave me a hard time because they knew where I was coming from. ... From my point of view, he [Reese] was understanding.”
» Second-year wideout Rueben Randle said he benefited greatly from Nicks’s and Cruz’s absences since he saw a majority of the reps with the first unit, but added he was glad to see Nicks return.
“It’s very exciting and good to see Hakeem back because we all know what he can do. ... As far as his situation goes, I can’t dwell on it too much,” Randle said. “I just had to focus on trying to build on this year for myself. I’m just trying to do the best I can regardless of the situation. Whether he was back or not I’m still trying to have a better year than I had last year.”
» Coughlin said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has returned to the area following surgery in California last week to repair a herniated disc in his back.
“He’s in the process of getting to the point where he can do some things, and I know that probably for the first three or four weeks he’s not going to be doing much,” Coughlin said.
» Fullback Henry Hynoski, who recently had knee surgery, has been rehabilitating every day. Coughlin “hopes” to have his battering ram back in time for training camp, “just like I hope for JPP.”
» Guard Chris Snee and center David Baas, both of whom had offseason surgery, are continuing their rehabs and not working in minicamp. Coughlin expects them to be on the field for the start of training camp on July 26.
“That’s what I’m told, that they will be ready to go. I’m sure there will be some limitations,” Coughlin said. “It won’t be like what it is here. They’ll be able to work.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for live updates from minicamp all week.