The Giants take on the Patriots in their fifth and final preseason game Thursday night. And for many, that means their NFL dreams could be on the verge of being dashed immediately following that contest.
Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day — despite all signs seemingly suggesting otherwise.
“I’m doing good. Every day I’m getting more comfortable and getting real confident in sticking my foot in the ground and going out there and just not thinking about anything but playing ball,” Manningham said when asked his opinion on being on the bubble. “I’m out just playing. I’m not thinking about the percentages. Cuts are coming up and stuff. I’m just going out and taking care of what I can take care of. ... I’m not worrying about cuts. I’m just going out and controlling what I can control. I’ll leave it up to the staff to make adjustments.”
Manningham’s training camp — or lack thereof — may actually help the coaching staff make a decision, as the veteran has just two receptions through 22 yards in the first four games.
Add to the fact that he’s been bothered by a balky knee and missed valuable practice reps, and many may think that Manningham’s fate may already be sealed.
“It hasn’t been any easy one [evaluating Manningham],” head coach Tom Coughlin said. “Some days it is better than others and I think he is growing in some confidence, but we have been at this for a while and would certainly like to see him at his very best over a period of time so we can assess what we could expect. He is working at it. He’s working hard, but certainly I think there can be more. He has had some spurts the last couple weeks where he has done some real good things on the practice field. ... It hasn’t carried over to the game field yet [but] he will have another chance.”
A chance is all Manningham asks for, as the Super Bowl XLVI hero refuses to rest on the laurels of past accomplishments. He noted he’s itching to show Coughlin and new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo he can perform in this system. The wideout said playing a couple of years in the same West Coast offense when he was a member of the 49ers helped his acclimation and he believes he can close the gap preseason standouts like Corey Washington have created.
“It’s always competition and you know going into any camp that there are going to be wide receivers out there pushing you,” said Manningham. “I’m just going to do what I’ve got to do [and] just make plays. This [offense] is similar to what they did over there. They’re both West Coast offenses, with just different terminology and different signals. That [experience] will help me because I know how to get open and get the ball in my hands to make plays.”
Competing for a job on an NFL team can be awkward, especially when most everyone in a particular meeting room are friends. A player’s livelihood — and even a career for older veterans — might be at stake. One particular peer of Manningham’s understands how important Thursday night may be for anyone on that proverbial bubble.
It was only a few years ago Victor Cruz was a rookie, hoping to avoid being cut. Now, it seems “weird” and “sad” for Cruz that guys he’s close to may no longer be with the team by Saturday night.
“It’s sad, man. Because you build these relationships with guys and you build these friendships with guys and the reality is that some of them go,” Cruz said, speaking only in generalities. “You understand it’s part of the business and you get that point, but it’s still sad to see some of your friends that you built these relationships with and friendships with go to the wayside like that. ... You just hope those guys get jobs elsewhere and continue to play this game that they love.”
Cruz added that when the cut-down hour looms, the mood shifts in the locker room — although no one openly talks about the inevitable.
“We all understand what [cut deadline] means. I mean, we kind of don’t say anything, [but] it’s already understood. You can see it in everyone’s face and things like that, but we don’t really say much and we don’t say anything about it,” Cruz said. “If we happen to see one of those guys in the hallway, we just shake their hand, give them a hug and tell them best of luck for the rest of the way, and things like that. We don’t like to dwell on things like that because it’s such a sad day for all of us.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.