Phoenix Seems So Long Ago For These Giants

New England fans look back at Super Bowl XLII and think what could have been (or should have been) against the New York Giants. While the Patriots continue to retool and rebuilt for yet another Super Bowl run (they happen to be Vegas favorites), the former Patriot killers are trying to do the same.

As the Giants formally opened training camp, they did so with a full complement of players including all nine draft picks.

The last signed was the first to be drafted, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, and he showed up in Albany, N.Y., with a five-year deal said to be worth $12.5 million. It was also reported that $6.4 million of the agreement was considered to be a signing bonus.

Nicks will get more than the usual opportunity to contribute immediately, since he joins a team missing both its starting wide receivers from last year. Veteran Amani Toomer has retired against his will, since the 34-year-old was an unrestricted free agent and the Giants did not offer a contract. Nor, for that matter, have any of the other 31 teams in the NFL.

The other starter, of course, is facing a possible jail term. Plaxico Burress, who caught the winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl 42 when the Giants beat the then-undefeated New England Patriots, was released April 3 after being suspended for the final four games of the season (plus the team's single playoff game) for charges stemming from gun possession. He carried an unlicensed handgun into a midtown Manhattan night club and it accidentally discharged, wounding him in the right thigh.

New York Giants WR David Tyree catches a pass while New England Patriots S Rodney Harrison defends Feb. 3, 2008

He is currently awaiting a decision by a Manhattan Grand Jury and remains unsigned.

The Giants took immediate steps to remedy the shortage by drafting Nicks in the first round and 6-6, 230-pound Ramses Barden (a Plaxico clone, at least in terms of size) in the third round.

The pair penciled in for now is Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon, neither of whom has a stranglehold on a starting position. Nicks, 6-1 and 200 pounds, has the size and speed and was impressive in minicamp and OTA sessions.

"It is pleasing to get all the draft picks signed in time for the opening of camp," said general manager Jerry Reese. "It's important for rookies to get the full exposure and to get in sync with the veterans because we expect them to contribute right away."

Others who will vie for playing time, in addition to Smith, Hixon, Nicks and Barden, are Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss, David Tyree and a small group of those with significantly less chance -- Derek Hagan, Taye Biddle and Shaun Bodiford.

Generally speaking, the final roster breakdown will include five or six wide receivers, the final one or two being kept primarily for special teams services. The group as a whole represents the youngest and least experienced positional area on the team -- Tyree will start his sixth season but it not guaranteed of a roster spot (he missed all of last season due to knee surgery and was basically a special teams contributor before that). Smith and Moss will start their fourth seasons, Hixon his third.

The Giants will almost certainly try to throw deep downfield, but they did draft a tight end, Travis Beckum, and could pair him up with starter Kevin Boss and their strong running game to establish a possession-type offense.

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