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Giants head to Dallas as one of NFL's healthiest teams in Week 1

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The NFL’s most injured team in each of the past three seasons is amazingly healthy entering their season opener on Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Cowboys.

The New York Giants have all 22 starters available and the only player on the league's revamped injury report (which doesn't include the probable designation anymore) is recently claimed defensive tackle Robert Thomas. It was unlikely Thomas would have been active even if he didn’t contract an illness this week.

After being limited earlier in the week, safety Darian Thompson (shoulder) and linebacker Jonathan Casillas (ribs) were left off the injury report, and coach Ben McAdoo said he expected them to play.

The Giants are in an enviable shape on the injury front heading into Week 1.

“There’s not too many guys on the injury report, which is really rare,” linebacker and recently-named team captain Casillas said. “I’ve been around and I’ve seen teams start the year with 10 guys on IR who were considered starters and important role players.”

It’s in stark contrast to where the Giants were last year. Starting middle linebacker Jon Beason, star wide receiver Victor Cruz and rookie defensive end Owa Odighizuwa were all ruled out for last year’s season opener against the Cowboys. Top pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul was home rehabbing from a Fourth of July weekend fireworks accident, starting offensive tackle Will Beatty was on the physically-unable-to-perform list with a torn pectoral muscle, and three safeties were already lost for the season.

Those eight players combined appeared in 12 games. It was too much for the Giants to overcome. They went 6-10 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Significant changes were made this offseason. McAdoo was hired in place of Tom Coughlin. He replaced strength and conditioning coach Jerry Palmieri with Aaron Wellman.

Wellman overhauled the Giants’ program. Even the weight room at the team's facility was revamped in an effort to better prepare them for the eight-month grind from the start of the offseason workout program to the end of the regular season.

The results so far are encouraging. There were only three "major" injuries to Giants this summer. Tight end Matt LaCosse (knee), fullback Nikita Whitlock (foot) and tight end Will Johnson (burner) landed on injured reserve.

In NFL terms, that’s a successful summer.

“I think with the way we constructed our practices and with the way we trained our players, we built a solid foundation and we built a strong football team,” McAdoo said. “We're confident with the way we that we built these players up and made them stronger as we went through camp. You have to be fortunate in a variety of ways, you have to be lucky a little bit, but we were confident heading into that we could build up a team that was strong.”

It’s more than luck. Wellman and McAdoo designed a program that promoted recovery. They tried to make the weight training more football and position-specific.

The players have bought in to the fresh approach. And why wouldn’t they after seeing the results the previous three years?

“[It’s a] combination of the training room and the weight room. Aaron Wellman has come in and did what he needed to do, tweaks with the strength and conditioning program, focusing on what we needed and not doing anything unnecessary training-wise. Sticking to football stuff and training the hamstrings a certain way,” Casillas said. “And not overworking us. He’s done a fantastic job combined with the training room [and senior vice president of medical services] Ronnie Barnes.

“I’ve been around. I’ve seen different locker rooms. I’ve seen different training rooms. And we have the best training staff in the league. Hands down.”

They also have one of the healthiest teams. The Giants are one of a handful of teams that have their entire starting lineup available Week 1.

At this pace, they may go from the most injured team to the healthiest.