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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants opened their 2013 training camp Friday saying they are incredibly focused and motivated to erase the bad taste of 2012 and the team's failed title defense.
"I think hunger is an understatement for what we have in mind," safety Antrel Rolle said.
Even Eli Manning, who owns two Super Bowl MVP trophies and is entering his 10th training camp, said he has much to prove this season.
I'm coming in here energized and with something to prove to myself and to my teammates. We got to get back to playing better football, and I have to play at a higher level. We got to get back to being precise and everything being done the right way to ensure that we are winning these games that we should be winning.” -- Giants QB Eli Manning
"I'm coming in here energized and with something to prove to myself and to my teammates," Manning said. "We got to get back to playing better football, and I have to play at a higher level. We got to get back to being precise and everything being done the right way to ensure that we are winning these games that we should be winning."
The Giants entered last year's training camp on a high coming off their Super Bowl victory. But they stumbled hard down the stretch. They lost three of their last five games, including consecutive losses at Atlanta and Baltimore by a combined score of 67-14.
After starting the season 6-2, the Giants finished 9-7, out of the playoffs and unable to defend their title.
"Last year's experience at the end of the year was not a very pretty one," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Our 16th game went well, but we played against two very outstanding teams, one of which won the world championship, but we didn't play as well as we're capable of playing.
"So I think that's on everybody's mind. We're better than that."
The Giants will go as far as Manning can take them. Last season, he threw for 3,948 yards and 26 touchdowns and completed 59.9 percent of his passes. It was the first time since 2008 that Manning failed to pass for 4,000 yards and at least 27 touchdowns and complete at least 60 percent of his passes.
The franchise quarterback, though, is excited about how good the Giants' offense can be this season. His best receiver, Hakeem Nicks, is expected to be 100 percent healthy after laboring through foot and knee injuries last season.
The team locked up wide receiver Victor Cruz and left tackle Will Beatty to long-term extensions, and drafted offensive lineman Justin Pugh in the first round to add depth and youth to the line. The team has a young and potentially exciting backfield in David Wilson and Andre Brown, and general manager Jerry Reese found Manning a new tight end in Brandon Myers in free agency.
"I think we attacked the areas that we needed," Manning said of the team's offseason moves. "We drafted [for the] offensive line, which every quarterback likes, so I think we attacked areas that we needed that we were limited in."
The Giants also must make serious strides on defense after finishing last season ranked 31st. The team will start with its best defensive player, Jason Pierre-Paul, on the physically unable to perform list after the defensive end underwent back surgery in the offseason.
Pierre-Paul did some light running on the side and hopes to be ready for the season opener against Dallas.
"He's coming," Coughlin said of Pierre-Paul. "He's done well. He's worked hard. I've seen him the last two days on the machines in there. His weight is good. He's optimistic."
Health will be a major issue for the Giants, who also placed right guard Chris Snee, fullback Henry Hynoski, cornerback Terrell Thomas and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn on the PUP list to start camp.
But motivation apparently will not be an issue for the Giants this season. In fact, the Giants have all the inspiration they need in MetLife Stadium, their home -- and home of the upcoming Super Bowl.
"Each year you are hungry for it, and yeah, I am hungry for my third," Manning said of winning a third championship in his career. "I am hungry for each player [on the team]. Either guys are trying to get their second or some guys are trying to get their first.
"You want everybody to have that experience, to know that you are the best team in the NFL that year, that sense of accomplishment."