On a bizarre Wednesday evening in East Rutherford, N.J., the most watched player at the New York Giants' practice was someone who didn't play a single snap: Osi Umenyiora.
Before practice began inside the Timex Performance Center -- rain caused the Giants to move it indoors -- reporters were told that Umenyiora had been excused from attending following an afternoon meeting with general manager Jerry Reese. Umenyiora, who wants a new contract, was reportedly told to go home, clear his head, and come back in the morning. Yet when reporters were allowed into the Timex Center for the start of practice, there was Umenyiora, riding an exercise bike (albeit very slowly) on the far sideline.
Umenyiora watched all of practice, and walked off the field with his teammates afterward. When asked about Umenyiora afterwards, coach Tom Coughlin said, "I'm not talking about Osi. … I'd rather talk about the guys that are here and are practicing."
But, when asked how he felt about Umenyiora hanging around to watch practice, as opposed to going home, Coughlin said, "I was pleased. I think it's a good thing. I'm hoping that it's the kind of indication that we're all looking for.
As for what actually happened on the field on Wednesday night:
This was the Giants' first practice of training camp in full pads, and Coughlin sounded very happy about that afterward. "I was glad to be out here in pads," Coughlin said. "I was glad for the work. There were a couple of things that disappointed me that we'll teach and overcome with some of the young guys. But it was good, and you can see some of the rust has gotta come off."
With several veterans who have signed new contracts or restructured their contracts (including Ahmad Bradshaw, Mathias Kiwanuka and Brandon Jacobs, among others) on the sidelines waiting for the new CBA to be ratified, and other free agents (including Kevin Boss and Steve Smith) still testing the waters, there were opportunities for other players to step up.
Third-year tight end Travis Beckum is one of those players getting more opportunites, and he had a couple of nice catches on Wednesday night.
Coughlin was asked afterwards if Beckum could have a more prominent role in the offense this season. "Hope so," said Coughlin. "That's the plan."
Last season, Beckum had 13 catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. He could become even more critical to the Giants if Boss, the team's starting tight end last season, goes elsewhere. Boss worked out for the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday.
Other players with nice catches on the day included Mario Manningham, who had an over-the-shoulder catch from Manning for a touchdown; Darius Reynaud, who caught a long bomb from backup QB Sage Rosenfels; and defensive back Brian Witherspoon, who had an inteception off of third-stringer Ryan Perrilloux.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, this was not Victor Cruz's finest practice as a Giant, to put it mildly. The second-year wideout had two glaring drops -- one on a long ball from Eli Manning, and one a medium-range pass over the middle.
Coughlin did not sound optimistic about having the veterans mentioned above available for Thursday's practice either, even though Aug. 4 was the original date targeted by the NFL and the players' union. The two sides are still haggling over some minor issues, and the new CBA may not be ratified by Thursday, as originally expected.
The Giants' chances are better than many other teams' though, because the Giants practice in the evenings.
"As far as I know, at this point in time, it's a no," Coughlin said, when asked about the veterans practicing on Thursday. "I think if they can get it done during the day, the way we practice, late in the day, we could still pull it out."
The Giants suffered two minor injuries on Wednesday night. Center Jim Cordle was injured on a kickoff play, and had to be helped off the field. "He is (OK), thank God," Coughlin said. "That was not pretty."
And wide receiver Devin Thomas twisted his ankle returning a kickoff. "I think he'll be fine," Coughlin said. "He's running a kick back, and I thought maybe he stepped on somebody's foot, that wasn't the case either. He just rolled it."
Coughlin also commented after practice on offensive lineman Stacy Andrews, who the Giants signed earlier in the day. "He really looks good. He came in light," Coughlin said. "He looks to be in outstanding shape, he's got good feet, and we plan to play him at tackle. … I imagine he's more comfortable (on the) right, but he'll be put on both sides."
Stacy's brother Shawn played for the Giants last season.