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Monday, July 25, 2011
Giants back-to-work FYI

By Dan Graziano

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Readiness factor: The Giants didn't hold as many player workouts as some other teams did during the lockout, but quarterback Eli Manning organized a few camps here and there, and did some work in various locations with some of his receivers. The good thing for the Giants is that they're bringing back the same coaching personnel they had last year and won't have to spend an inordinate amount of time learning any big new schemes. They're a veteran team that knows how to get itself ready for the season, and Manning and the other team leaders have basically trusted that the guys were keeping themselves in shape and would be ready to go whenever the lockout ended. We'll find out whether that trust was justified.

Biggest challenge: The Giants' biggest post-lockout challenge is in the front office, where contracts must be signed for several key free agents of their own before they can hit the market and figure out what they need. Ahmad Bradshaw, Mathias Kiwanuka, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and Barry Cofield are among the key 2009 and 2010 contributors who can be free agents, and it's unlikely the Giants will be able to keep them all. Of that group, Cofield is the most likely to leave, as they consider him more replaceable than Kiwanuka and their key offensive players. It'll be interesting to see whether another team comes hard after Boss and/or Bradshaw, because losing one or both of those guys could dramatically alter the Giants' offseason priority list. And then there's the Osi Umenyiora issue. He says he wants a new contract or a trade. They can and probably will tell him, "Tough luck," but if they do, they have to wonder how much trouble he'll make for them in training camp.

Bill of health: There are a number of health and injury issues worth watching as the Giants get back to business. Smith is coming off a major knee injury, and they don't know how ready he'll be. He's a key component in the passing game, and Manning looked a bit lost at times last year when Smith wasn't available to him. The offensive line also had health issues in 2010, and it's an aging unit that probably could use a reinforcement or two in free agency, lest the health problems flare up again and threaten to sink a whole season. Being a veteran team is likely to help the Giants from a readiness standpoint in this shortened offseason, but with age and experience come other potential pitfalls. The Giants will need to make sure to ease some guys into training camp so they don't end up hurt.

Key players without contracts for 2011: TE Kevin Boss, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, LB Keith Bulluck, DT Barry Cofield, S Deon Grant, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, C/G Adam Koets, WR Steve Smith.