EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The New York Giants had just finished calisthenics and were about to break into group workouts when something out of the ordinary happened at practice Thursday.
The team pulled into the center of the field in the indoor facility and got into a huddle to listen to a speaker.
For a few seconds it seemed like rookie coach Ben McAdoo would be delivering a message, just three days before the playoff-bound Giants (10-5) are to face the Washington Redskins on the road in the regular-season finale.
Looking closely, it became apparent that McAdoo was listening along with everybody else.
Seconds later when a few players shifted their locations, it was obvious that the guy who had their attention was linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas.
It made sense with the postseason scheduled to start in about 10 days. This is a young Giants team. Less than one-third of the team has been to the playoffs and Casillas had something to tell as a two-time Super Bowl winner: with New Orleans in 2009 and the Patriots in 2014.
Take advantage of the opportunity, something the Giants have not had since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012. The last four seasons, the team has not made the postseason.
Casillas was getting treatment after practice and was not available to comment in the locker room. His teammates appreciated his words going into a game the Redskins (8-6-1) have to win to make the playoffs.
Linebacker Mark Herzlich, a member of the Giants’ last championship team, said Casillas wanted to make sure that the team started getting in gear for the postseason this week, and not wait until the regular season is over.
“Every guy that has been to the playoffs and to the Super Bowl shares their experience,” Herzlich said. “It’s so rare to get there. I remember in 2011 when we went to the Super Bowl and the playoffs, there were a lot of guys. I think Deon Grant got up and spoke the opposite way. It was his 12th year and he hadn’t been to the playoffs yet. There were guys like that on the team. There were other guys like Mathias (Kiwanuka) and Eli (Manning) who already won one with the Giants.”
The message, though, is the same. This is a rare chance to do something exceptional. Let’s create some momentum and not waste the opportunity.
The Giants have not been close to the playoffs the past three seasons, posting 7-9, 6-10 and 6-10 records.
Fellow linebacker Devon Kennard said Casillas’ message was important. He has spent the past three seasons with New York and the closest he has been to the playoffs was watching on television.
“For me being a younger guy, I follow the lead of the guys that have been there before,” Kennard said. “I know that I am going to bring my best effort and leave it all out there on the field every day, hopefully until February 5th. But it is the older guys that we all have to lean on because they have been there before and they know how to get it done.”
Veteran defensive back Leon Hall went to the playoffs four times with the Bengals. He is still looking for his first postseason win.
“It is good for him to do that,” Hall said of Casillas. “It just helps you kind of bring it into reality. Sometimes you get into the feeling like it’s Thursday, and that kind of shakes the day a little bit in a good way.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo believes it’s important for team leaders to speak their minds with teammates.
“You are going to draw on all of that, all of the guys that are in the room: coaches, players who have been through it before,” Spagnuolo said. “But look it, we are going to take it one step at a time. We have a game coming up, that is the most important thing.”
NOTES: CB Janoris Jenkins (back), LB B.J. Goodson (concussion) and S Nat Berhe (concussion) were limited in practice Thursday. … WR Victor Cruz has been chosen the winner of the 16th annual George Young Good Guy Award, as voted on by the Giants’ chapter of the Professional Football Writers of America. The award, named for the late general manager of the Giants, is given annually to honor a Giants player for his consistent and outstanding cooperation with the writers who cover the team on a daily basis. Cruz also won the award in 2011.
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