Head coach Jim Fassel is vacationing with his suddenly-extended family in Montana. Quarterback Kerry Collins is "down home" on his horse farm in North Carolina, doing all those things that farmer/rancher types do when he isn't playing football in the NFL.
Defensive end Michael Strahan is busy adding to his collection of high-priced automobiles, having recently added an Aston-Martin to his garage.
But that doesn't mean that the coaches and players aren't busy thinking of new ways to increase their newfound offensive production. Fassel, who is also the new offensive coordinator (Sean Payton was allowed to leave, and was snapped up by the Dallas Cowboys as quarterbacks coach), found a gold mine in rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey last season, and he quickly developed into a unique weapon on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.
Now Shockey is a year more experienced and the Giants have already incorporated him into the overall offense to an extent that no tight end has reached since the 1985-1990 reign of Mark Bavaro. The downside to all this, however, is the defection of Dan Campbell, who had turned into one of the NFC's best blocking tight ends, to the Cowboys. There does not appear to be a blocking tight end on the roster at this point, and that might cause Fassel and his offensive staff to redesign a few things.
For instance, veteran FA fullback Jimmy Finn (from Indianapolis) has a reputation as a solid blocker, and he admits that the discussions with the Giants before he signed involved his skills as a blocker who can move as a blocking tight end might. This would enhance the Giants' short-yardage running game and give Collins somewhat more time to find his receivers, including Shockey, downfield.
But since every cloud has its silver lining, consider the team's third round draft pick, Visanthe Shiancoe, a 6-4, 250-pounder with 4.66 speed from Morgan (Md.) State.
He was easily the star of the Indianapolis workouts, and when the Giants conducted their June 2-5 full team minicamp, he caught the eye of the veterans with his speed and athleticism. "He's raw," says general manager Ernie Accorsi, "but he has a ton of potential."
With speed and size almost equal to Shockey, Shiancoe is being looked upon as another deep downfield type of tight end, and if that comes to fruition, there is no limit to the offensive impact that would have on a team that already includes Collins, Shockey, wideouts Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard (as well as backups Ron Dixon and Tim Carter) and running back Tiki Barber.
"It would be nice," says tight ends coach Mike Pope, "to have two guys like Jeremy, but we still need somebody to block. Don't overlook Darnell Dinkins."
Dinkins is a 6-3, 245-pound second year project, who has already gotten a taste of quarterback and safety while excelling on special teams. He has been working with the right ends all during the off-season and Pope, while cautious, is also optimistic.
"He has the size and the speed," he says. "He knows what to do. He is athletic. All he needs now is the technique."
Might he become the blocking tight end the Giants must have? Yes, he might, and that would be two years in a row the Giants get lucky at the tight end position.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--The Giants reported the death, from natural but unspecified causes, of former center Kevin Belcher, who was 42 and lived in Texas. Belcher was on his way to a Pro Bowl career (1983-1985) until injuring his knee and back in an off-season automobile accident. He lost feeling in his left leg and was unable to continue despite two years of rehabilitation efforts.
Belcher, who played at 6-3 and 265, became the first center in Giant history who was able to snap the ball and then pull out on sweeps. "Kevin was a great athlete and I thought he was going to have a spectacular career," said the late George Young, then the Giants' general manager. "It was a sad loss for football."
--Former Giants' DE Byron Frisch was signed as a free agent by the San Francisco 49ers. He played in the last 10 games of the season in 2002 and finished with four tackles and two sacks.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just walked around the locker room and I felt the energy. It was different than it was last year, or the year before. I think every player on this team knows we can win, and win big. It is a new experience for us to start a season this way." -- Giants' quarterback Kerry Collins.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): LS Trey Junkin (not tendered as UFA); WR Tony Simmons (not tendered as UFA); CB Reggie Stephens (ERFA tender of $375,000 withdrawn); RB Damon Washington (not tendered as ERFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED: OG David Diehl (5th; $1,018,500/3 yrs, $108,500 SB; 2003 cap: $261,667); CB Frank Walker (6th; terms unknown); WR Willie Ponder (6th; $966,000/3 yrs, $56,000 SB; 2003 cap: $243,667); WR David Tyree (6th; $953,500/3 yrs, $43,500 SB; 2003 cap: $239,500); S Charles Drake (7th; terms unknown); WR Kevin Walter (7th; $934,250/3 yrs, $24,250 SB; 2003 cap: $233,083).
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: C Chris Bober (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); OT Barrett Brooks (UFA; $655,000/1 yr, no SB; 2003 cap: $450,000); CB Ralph Brown (RFA; $609,800/1 yr); WR Ron Dixon (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); DE Frank Ferrara (ERFA; $379,800/1 yr); QB Jason Garrett (UFA; $780,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); WR Ike Hilliard (UFA; $12.78M/5 yrs, $2.5M SB/$1M SB option '04; 2003 cap: $1.03M); LB Dhani Jones (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); S Clarence LeBlanc (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); LB Kevin Lewis (RFA; $1.975M/3 yrs, $450,000 SB; 2003 cap: $600,000); TE/LS Dan O'Leary (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); OT Luke Petitgout ($30M/6 yrs, $9.75M SB; 2003 cap: $2.155M); CB Kato Serwanga (UFA; $530,000/1 yr, no SB/$25,000 base guarantee; 2003 cap: $454,800); LB Brandon Short (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); OG Omar Smith (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); S Omar Stoutmire (UFA; $3.2M/3 yrs, SB unknown).
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: P Jeff Feagles (UFA Seahawks; $4.32M/5 yrs, $500,000 SB; 2003 cap: $855,000); FB Jim Finn (not tendered as RFA by Colts; $985,000/2 yrs, no SB; 2003 cap: $450,000); CB Ray Green (not tendered as RFA by Dolphins; $985,000/2 yrs, no SB; 2003 cap: $454,800); PK Mike Hollis (UFA Bills; 5 yrs, terms unknown); LS Ryan Kuehl (UFA Browns; $3.62M/5 yrs, $325,000 SB; 2003 cap: $595,000); RB Dorsey Levens (UFA Eagles; $2.48M/3 yrs, $300,000 SB; 2003 cap: $755,000); KR Brian Mitchell (UFA Eagles; $3.55M/4 yrs, $500,000 SB; 2003 cap: $880,000); DE Keith Washington (FA Broncos; $684,400/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $479,400).
PLAYERS LOST: P Matt Allen (cut); TE Dan Campbell (UFA Cowboys; $4M/3 yrs, $1.47M SB); DE Byron Frisch (not tendered as RFA/49ers; terms unknown); DE Dwight Johnson (cut); DT Ross Kolodziej (ERFA tender of $375,000 withdrawn/49ers; $375,000/1 yr); WR Herman Moore (cut); PK Owen Pochman (cut); OT Mike Rosenthal (UFA Vikings; $1.8M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB); CB Jason Sehorn (cut); LB Clayton White (cut); OG Jason Whittle (UFA Buccaneers; $8.2M/5 yrs, $1.8M SB); FB Adam Wright (cut); C Dusty Zeigler (cut).
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.