On the very first play of the morning session, the Jets proved they meant business, as three of them teamed up to nail Jeremy Shockey, triggering a melee. Things nearly got out of hand after that, leading to Coughlin, incredibly, having a verbal on-field confrontation with Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson.
After seeing repeated body blows to his receivers, a frustrated Coughlin beseeched Henderson to lighten things up. "That's how we practice ... we put our hats on people,'' Henderson shot back, prompting a look of disgust from Coughlin.
"We don't practice like that,'' Coughlin countered afterward. "It's smart to realize there are only so many guys and we are operating under the salary cap. We want them to go at full speed. We just don't need hits that aren't necessary.''
Things got cooking early. The first skirmish came on a 9-on-7 drill that highlights power inside running. The Giants lined up and called a handoff to Mike Cloud, who plowed into the line of scrimmage. Away from the action, Shockey was shoved in the back by defensive back Oliver Celestin.
Instantly, Shockey went on the attack, confronting Celestin. Wild punches ensued. Safety Erik Coleman charged Shockey from behind and linebacker Jonathan Vilma made it three Jets vs. Shockey, who was wrestled to the grass. Several other altercations followed, with Chris Snee ripping off the helmet of linebacker Eric Barton.
"It's going to happen, there's no bad blood, that's just how football is,'' said Shockey, who seemed bemused by the entire situation. "You might as well do it now when you can't get fined and Paul Tagliabue can't take any money out of your pocket.''
There were no melees after the initial brawl but that doesn't mean the situation simmered down. Willie Ponder leaped in a failed attempt to rise for a Jesse Palmer pass and as Ponder was in the air he was nailed by rookie safety Kerry Rhodes. Ponder went down with injuries to his throat and chest, sending a signal to the other Giants receivers.
"It probably was a little cheap shot,'' Plaxico Burress said.
"He got hurt, then it's like everybody's got to start protecting themselves,'' added Toomer.
A few moments later, Toomer learned the hard way during a 7-on-7 drill. He caught a pass from Eli Manning and was hit hard - too hard for Toomer's liking - by Barton. Toomer, rarely an antagonist, went helmet-to-helmet with Barton and finished up the argument with a shove. If that wasn't enough, Barton shouted "Get to the playoffs!'' at Toomer as the two separated.
"They practice different than we do,'' Toomer said. "We try to keep our players healthy and I guess they don't. We usually try let our receivers run and not try to pull any hamstrings or anything like that. It's more of a tag type situation. They're more of a beat-the-crap-out-of-it-team.''
Afternoon sparks included Jets fullback B.J. Askew body-slamming Giants safety Brent Alexander, triggering another mini-brawl. Brandon Jacobs, the Giants massive rookie running back, went helmet-to-helmet with Jets defensive tackle Alan Harper. Toomer, letting out his frustration, wrestled the ball away from Darrien Johnson and then in uncharacteristic fashion emphatically spiked the ball at Johnson's feet.
Jacobs opened eyes when he caught a swing pass and plowed over Jets cornerback Pete Hunter, sending him reeling five yards backwards.
"I could have gone around him but it was cut-and-dried for me right there,'' Jacobs said. "It was a nice little run so I didn't want to waste any energy going around him. This kind of saves energy.'' ... The Giants came up with new injuries in the morning that kept players out of action in the afternoon: CB Will Allen (strained groin), TE Jeremy Shockey (hamstring), LB Nick Greisen (hamstring), LB T.J. Hollowell (foot). ... Giants offense was extremely ragged in the second session. ... Attendance for both sessions was 8,657.
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