EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The defending Super Bowl champions were back on the practice field for the first time this offseason on Wednesday, taking part in the team's first OTA (Organized Team Activity) workout.
Almost every player on the roster was in attendance, despite the fact that OTAs are technically optional -- Osi Umenyiora being the most notable exception. Fellow defensive lineman Justin Tuck was present though, and afterwards he defended the "dynasty" talk that he started last week at the Giants' ring ceremony.
"Why wouldn’t I feel that way," Tuck said. "I don’t need to be playing the game if I’m not thinking about winning a championship every year.
"I feel very confident in this team’s talents and this coaching staff, and I believe we have that shot [at being a dynasty]. Me saying it, is that gonna make it happen? Absolutely not, but we do have a shot at it."
In general, the Giants seemed excited to be back in action, going through a spirited practice (without pads) that lasted a little more than an hour.
"It’s just great to be back on the field, practicing," said quarterback Eli Manning. "Wear a helmet. And competing against a defense a little bit."
"I’m glad to be back out here on this field," said wide receiver Victor Cruz. "Glad to be having this helmet back on, and these gloves, and getting back out there and catching some footballs."
Neither Manning nor Cruz spoke quite as strongly when asked about Tuck's "dynasty" comments, but both sounded confident about the upcoming year.
"I think of trying to get better for next year, that’s the mindset," Manning said. "The season ended up well, but if you look at our regular season, we still lost seven games. There’s a lot of room for improvement."
"Winning the Super Bowl last year, everybody kinda looked around and understood that we have the pieces in place to be a very good team for a very long time," Cruz said. "Dynasty? Too early to tell, but we’ll see what happens as the years come along."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has high expectations. "I think we’ve kind of raised the bar for our own performance," Coughlin said, "whether it be in meetings, on the practice field, on the game field -- that’s what I want to see."
Several rookies who could play key roles this season got their first taste of action with the veterans on Wednesday, including running back David Wilson and wide receiver Rueben Randle, the team's first- and second-round draft picks.
"The development of these young guys is real important," said Coughlin. "Just to learn the new language is really critical."
Linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka believes the team's relative youth will serve it well in 2012.
"We’re a very motivated team," Kiwanuka said. "There are a lot of guys that even though they’ve had success, they have a lot left to accomplish in their careers. I think that’s gonna work in our favor.
"From the coaching staff on down, everybody’s just hungry to win another one. It doesn’t matter how many we win, we’re always gonna want another one. We’re in a good spot. Yeah, we enjoyed the championship -- we have the rings, and they look nice -- but we’re ready to move on."