Stretching it: Giants cut practice short

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants stopped their training camp practice about 45 minutes earlier than usual Thursday, but instead of heading back into the locker room right away, the players and coaches all went into the field house for 20 minutes of stretching.

"That was a recovery stretch," Giants coach Tom Coughlin explained. "Again, trying to enhance some of this soft muscle business."

It wasn't random, either. The Giants' players this summer are wearing GPS devices that monitor their vitals in real time. The team gathers the data and uses it to help determine when to ease off the work for the benefit of recovery. The Giants announced early in the day that their practice would end early, so the decision was not based on the day's weather (which was unusually cool and cloudy) or anything that happened on the field Thursday.

"The GPS helps us structure the practice and learn when we should be doing things such as this," Coughlin said. "The whole purpose is to be able to come back and have a full-speed practice tomorrow."

It's been an odd first few days of camp. Tuesday, four Giants players were carted off because of heat-related illness. On Wednesday, Coughlin stopped practice midway through and had the players all walk into the field house for a five-minute cool-down break. And then Thursday, the short practice with the stretch after.

This is all a far cry from the days when Coughlin and other NFL coaches could put their players through two practices a day in the hot July and August sun. And it's certainly a lot different from what Coughlin and his Syracuse teammates likely put themselves through in the 1960s. But player health and safety has become a more significant part of the NFL consciousness in recent years, and from a pragmatic standpoint, preventing injuries is good business. So the Giants' 67-year-old coach might wish he could work his players harder, but he's doing what he can to put a smiling face on the whole matter.

"I'm doing the best I can, how about that?" Coughlin said. "I'm doing the best I can."