EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants players have to watch where they're going if they're carrying something in this training camp. New cornerback Zack Bowman, formerly of the Chicago Bears, has convinced the Giants' defensive backs that it's a good idea to knock things out of teammates' hands. Pencils, books, footballs, water bottles ... nothing is safe. If you're walking past a Giants defensive back, there's a good chance he's going to try to knock something out of your hands.
"Bowman has brought that mentality from Chicago," Giants cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta said Tuesday. "They used to knock the playbook out of each other's hands walking to meetings. I think with the iPads now, we don't want to do that."
No, probably not, but you get the idea. The Bears have been known in recent years as a defense built on takeaways. They preach and coach and practice forcing turnovers. By bringing in someone who played on that defense, the Giants (who had a middle-of-the-pack 17 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries last year) hope their defense starts to feel more strongly the importance of getting turnovers.
"It's just having a mindset," said Bowman, who intercepted a pass in the end zone in Sunday night's preseason victory over Buffalo. "That's what they instilled in us in Chicago, just having a mindset of, 'Hunt the ball. It's all about the football.' So that's what I try to tell Prince Amukamara and the rest of our guys -- what you do in practice is going to carry over into the game. If you make plays in practice, it creates habit, so when you get into the game, you're used to doing it. I'm trying to bring that same mentality and that same attitude here."
Amukamara's on board. With only three interceptions so far in his three-year NFL career, collecting more turnovers has become a point of emphasis for him this year. He learned to juggle in the offseason to work on his hand-eye coordination. He was beating himself up so much about a deep ball he thought he should have intercepted Sunday night against the Bills that he stayed late after Tuesday night's practice and had Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie throw him deep passes so he could practice going up high to catch the ball.
"I think guys can learn to have ball skills, and I think some guys are born with it," Amukamara said. "I played offense in high school, and I played basketball. So I think I'm pretty coordinated with the ball. I think some guys are born with it and some aren't, but I think it's something that can be worked on."
Giants coaches told Amukamara prior to last season that his goal was to play all 16 games for the first time. He did that, and proved himself a solid technician in coverage. But he has yet to establish himself as the kind of cornerback who can make the big, game-changing play, and he's determined to do so.
"It's huge for him to be able to go out and play the ball in the air better, not wait for it to come down," Giunta said. "So he'll work on that in practice. But I think it's just confidence -- seeing it and doing it, seeing himself on tape, what position he's in, where the receiver was in relation to the sideline. He'll be able to do those things, go up and get it."
If he does, that will greatly enhance the ability of the Giants as a team to create turnovers. And once they get better at that, look out. Nobody will be able to carry anything around this building anymore.