EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants stretched and danced like it was the prelude to any old Thursday practice. Then a scene unfolded inside their practice bubble that isn’t the norm before they start running drills and their full-fledged workout in preparation for a game.
Coach Ben McAdoo huddled his players -- uncharacteristic for December dressed in shells (shoulder pads and helmets) -- at midfield before beginning to work. That’s when defensive captain and starting linebacker Jonathan Casillas began addressing the team.
The speech lasted about 45 seconds. Then the Giants went about their normal business with what is regularly their longest and most arduous practice of the week.
Casillas' message was heard.
“I took it that everybody only gets one chance. This is the only time this whole team is going to be together to go for the Super Bowl,” cornerback Trevin Wade said. “You only get one chance.”
Casillas is aware. He won a Super Bowl as a rookie during the 2009 season with the New Orleans Saints. He also won with the Patriots in 2014.
It’s part of why when Casillas talks and his teammates listen, as they did three days before closing out their regular season on the road against the Washington Redskins. The Giants (10-5) are already locked into the No. 5 seed in the NFC but are treating this week’s game (as least publicly) as if it’s a playoff contest.
Casillas demanded his teammates concentrate on the task in front of them, beginning this week with the Redskins.
“He did a great job,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said of Casillas’ on-field message to the team. “It was well said.”
It was most certainly interesting timing for such an address from the team’s defensive captain. This week’s game has no playoff implications for the Giants.
“I was surprised [Casillas spoke] because this isn’t the playoff week, but it’s good to remind us to get in the playoff mode,” Wade said. “Because to them it’s a playoff game. We need to play at our high level so we can start clicking.”
The Giants aren’t messing around this week. Players were surprised to be in pads Thursday before their regular season finale. Then practice began with Casillas addressing the team.
It was a deviation from what they're used to at this time of the year.
“It happens more often than you see. We take a TV timeout break sometimes halfway through practice and guys will get it going. I think that was the first time this year where we kicked off practice with that,” veteran linebacker Mark Herzlich said. “It’s a day where you’re in Week 17 and you have pads on. That’s rare for a lot of guys.
"I think what Jon was saying, it doesn’t matter, the circumstances. We go out there and do what we need to do to create momentum going into the playoffs to get a win. We set our goals singularly, and that’s one week at a time. Just getting a win one week at a time. This week is no different.”
The Giants have 10 players on the active roster who have Super Bowl rings. Herzlich and Casillas are two. Quarterback Eli Manning, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, long snapper Zak DeOssie, offensive linemen Will Beatty and Marshall Newhouse, wide receiver Victor Cruz, running back Bobby Rainey and linebacker Deontae Skinner are the others.
These are the players the Giants will lean on as they prepare for their first playoff run in five years.
“Yeah, you are going to draw on all of that, all of the guys that are in the room, coaches, players who have been through it before,” Spagnuolo said. “But look, we are going to take it one step at a time. We have a game coming up. That is the most important thing.”
And that is part of what Casillas preached.