Giant outrage

In the middle of a team meeting, a cell phone rang. Usually that would be a source of laughter, amusement and at best a slight slap on the wrist from the coach. Not on the good ship Coughlin. James McKnight was not only fined $5,000 for failing to turn his cell off, but he was immediately booted from the meeting by new Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

Boy times sure have changed since Jim Fassel used to joke with the media when Frank Ferrara interrupted a meeting because his phone rang.

This is just one of the many rules put in place by Coughlin, a set of guidelines he shared with the team during a multiple-page PowerPoint presentation early in training camp. Some of the rules have left players wondering just how long they'll last under Coughlin. .

"There's a lot of older guys already talking about getting out," one veteran said. "They're willing to give up money in order to play elsewhere for someone else." .

"Guys have already started to tune him out," another player said. "He really takes all the fun out of it." .

One unwritten rule Coughlin has focuses on injuries. He truly believes that very few players that miss time actually need to do so, according to several players. He'll go right to that player and question his toughness in order to try to get him back on the field. Some veterans have said they've had to convince younger players to remain out of action in order to prevent them from further injuring themselves. .

"No doubt a lot of guys need to get tougher," a vet said. "But injuries are part of football and sometimes you just can't go." .

Several players believe Coughlin took his disdain for injuries a little too far the night before OL coach Pat Flaherty underwent colon cancer surgery. According to several Giants, Coughlin used Flaherty's situation to prove the point that some of the players weren't being tough enough and should be ashamed of themselves. .

"That was a low blow," one player said. "Don't bring a man in that situation into it. That's not right." .

The slew of injured Giants during camp thus far is very similar to how things were under Fassel. But that's where the similarities end. Coughlin's drills are precise and direct. The players move from one drill to the next with a sense of purpose. .

"It's an up-tempo practice," a veteran Giant said. "We're not out there long, but we're definitely working harder while we're out there. Practices are shorter, but we're working harder." .

"Guys are expected to have their own discipline and then Tom enforces that," another added. "Everything's laid out right in front of us. He expects 100 percent from all of us all the time." .

And if they're not prepared, they're going to hear from the head man in front of all their peers. Several players have felt Coughlin's wrath for mental mistakes in camp. .

Players are fined if they're called out for a special teams unit during practice and don't immediately report to their position. Coughlin wants his players on the ball at all times, and who could blame him? This is a team coming off a four-win season. .

Players have mentioned that Camp Coughlin is like going back to college; others liken it to being in the military. Most of Coughlin's rules have been in place under other coaches, but just haven't been enforced. Not only is Coughlin enforcing rules, but many of the fines are heavy. .

Having a cell phone ring not only during a meeting, but even using one in the training room will cost you $5,000. .

Missing a treatment will also cost you five grand. Ron Dixon got out just in time. .

Misplacing or losing your playbook is an even more egregious offense and will cost the offending party close to $7,500. .

One of the hotter topics among the disgruntled players was Coughlin's dress code, which is enforced not just when the club gets to the hotel on the road but for the entire time they're in the hotel. For instance, you better have slacks and a collared shirt on when you arrive at the team hotel. But even after checking in if you plan to come back down to the lobby to get a soda or meet family and friends you better still be wearing your dress clothes. If not, $1,000 goes to the team's kitty. .

Players can get by with dress shorts and collared shirts, but are forbidden to wear white athletic socks when the dress code is in effect. .

"He wants the team to look classy to the public," a player said. "What can you do? I'd rather worry about the playbook than how I look." .

Players have been surprised that Coughlin hasn't insisted some of his longer-haired players cut it off. He mentioned it to Barry Stokes, who politely declined. He also said something to rookie lineman Drew Strojny, who then reported to camp sans long locks. .

Coughlin's dress code has spread to the team meetings, where hats are forbidden, and the practice fields, where everybody wears the same color everything – from shorts to socks to shoes. .

One of Coughlin's equipment rules has many of the speed players – defensive backs and receivers, in particular – up in arms. Coughlin insists that everyone wear thigh pads and knee pads during games at all times. .

"Most guys don't like to wear knee pads and thigh pads," one player stated. "That's a safety precaution and something he requires. Our opponents aren't wearing knee pads and thigh pads. It's not comfortable to wear them. They're probably moving better than we are. I'm not really crazy about that. .

"Most speed guys haven't worn knee pads since high school…95 percent of the league's speed guys don't wear knee pads." .

The players' usual Wednesday night off has also gone the way of the Fassel-bird. While most of Coughlin's rules clearly and obviously apply to disciplining a football team, players question some of them. .

"It's a lot of rules…some of them you wonder what they have to do with football," one guy said. .

One of the most interesting rules revealed was that all players have to hold their helmets under their left arm on the sideline during the national anthem. .

"That's a little Pop Warnerish to me," one vet said. .

Coughlin limits his dealings with the media to once a day. In all fairness, he's been much more accessible and approachable with the scribes than expected. His occasional joke still catches everyone off-guard. He wants his players to be polite and helpful to the media, but to keep all the talk team-oriented. Coughlin doesn't want players talking about themselves, their injuries or the opponents. .

It's obvious that Coughlin doesn't want his players reading their own press clippings either. In years past, piles and piles of newspapers greeted the players every morning in their camp locker room, which is set up in the U-Albany gym. Early in camp, Coughlin told security officers to dispose of the papers and make sure the deliveries stopped. .

He also definitely doesn't want players talking to the media outside their daily allotted time. .

"He told us, ‘If any media guys have your cell phone number, change it right away,' " a veteran said. .

Apparently rookie Jamaar Taylor didn't get the message. He stopped to be interviewed by a local TV station following an afternoon practice session early in camp. Coughlin took one look at that and erupted on Taylor. .

Coughlin also wants his troops to curtail their appearances and radio and TV work during the season. Nothing after Wednesday, the coach has told the team. .

All the rules and regulations certainly represent a distinct change from when Fassel ran the show. Many players say that if they're winning and things are going fine, no one's really going to pay it much mind. However, if things turn sour, players envision a bad situation turning worse. .

"We'll just wait for him to self-destruct," one veteran said. .

What remains to be seen is if Coughlin minds the unhappy players longing to work elsewhere. After all, it's very possibly exactly what he's looking to accomplish. .

(Editor's note: The names have obviously been changed to protect the innocent. Approximately two-thirds of the Giants who were on the club last season were consulted for this story, but, for obvious reasons, none of the players were quoted. Tom Coughlin made it clear to his players at the time that he wasn't interested in their opinion of his rules. Since he's unavailable for one-on-one interviews to the daily media during training camp, there was no comment from Coughlin for this piece.)

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