Tom Coughlin’s presser on Tuesday was dominated by questions about former DE Michael Strahan, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Canton, Ohio.
Q: You [Coach Coughlin] and Michael [Strahan] had an interesting relationship over the years. What does it feel like for you to see how he began and now going into the Hall of Fame?
A: Incredible pride. Michael Strahan was a great football player. He had ability and was taught right from the beginning. He practiced hard, ran to the ball, was a great example for the younger guys in doing that, and excellent in the classroom. He was a dynamic leader and had one of those magnetic personalities where everyone was attracted to him. He was a superb player on the field in both the pass and the run. Yeah, we didn’t necessarily see eye to eye right away, but thank goodness we won Michael over. We spent some time together and went through some times that were good and bad. I think that he appreciated the fact that what we were trying to do was in the best interest of everybody and the team and being the best we could be. He became an outstanding captain and very good in the leadership council. He did a great job with us that way. Couldn’t be more proud of him as he made the transition out of football to life and how successful he’s been in the business he’s in now. To his family, mom and dad, nothing but congratulations and happiness for this wonderful, wonderful recognition. To be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a wonderful thing and gives us another great Giant. When we go out there and pass through the Hall of Fame, we can see the bust of another great Giant football player along with all the others.
Q: Was seeing eye-to-eye with Strahan, however you managed to accomplish that, one of the keys you think to that first Super Bowl?
A: No doubt, I think it was because of the fact that Michael was so strong in the locker room. I think also the way in which our organization handled that summer when he didn’t come right into camp and we still expressed the fact that – I know Michael and I had conversations in which I said, without a doubt, that we’d love to have him back but only if his heart was in the right place, and it was when he came back. Nobody was cheering harder in that last drive (of Super Bowl XLII) than Michael Strahan. Very, very proud of him, a very proud day for the New York Giants.
Q: Do you think he was rare because he played as well against the run as he was a pass rusher?
A: Rare, very rare. Not only that, but as he got into those 14, 15 years, he took his weight down. He was probably 252-254 [pounds], still playing with that kind of power over those right tackles with that punch and that great extension against the run. Just a great love of the game and competing with tremendous pride. His thought about fear of failure – I mean that’s a great motivator.
Q: Did his personality kind of influence you as you progressed in this job? He has such an infectious personality.
A: Well, so do I.
Q: You do, too. I’m just saying, the two of you playing off each other and just growing together.
A: Well he’s definitely himself and I try to be myself. The thing that I picked up on right away is that he’s one of the classic – I mean he has a great time with anybody if he wants to bust their chops, but he can take it. And they come right back at him; they can’t wait to get at him and he was always great with that, too. No hard feelings, in other words.
Q: He’s been gone for six or seven years now, but it seems like he still has a large shadow on this team.
A: Well only because when he comes over. He struck up a relationship with Damontre [Moore]. He was always here for [Justin] Tuck and all the guys in that room. Last year in the fall, we had him over and he sat in with the defensive coaches, sat in there with the players. We haven’t been able to get him over here yet this year, but I’m sure we will. I’m sure we will.
Q: It’s hard to take a young player and say, “look, you could be like Michael,” but is that a good goal to have for some of these young defensive ends? You know, “look what he did; maybe you can do some of that too.”
A: That’s a great goal. He sets a great example, let’s face it. The way he practiced, studied, worked at it. Very opinionated, no question about it. Very loquacious, one of those personalities that had a lot of fun but could get serious and could ask serious questions. You have to respect that. Always.
Q: How does it feel to have a guy that you coached now be a Hall of Famer?
A: It’s a wonderful feeling shared by our whole staff. What a great feeling.
Q: Does it also amaze you that he’s now a guy that even in retirement you will lean on to set an example? That’s a long way for a guy who I would imagine at first you weren’t sure where this was going to end up.
A: I don’t know what you’re trying to get me to say. I think I talked enough about that part of it. No matter what he felt like, he came to work and he worked hard and went out and played hard. I think that once he realized that we were all doing that and trying to do the best we can, there was never any friction after that. That last year was a tremendous experience for everybody.
Q: You got to go through the Hall last year when Bill [Parcells] went in. Are you going to take the team there this year?
A: Yes. We’re going there and we’ll travel through. The hotel is about an hour away and we’ll send the team on their way and we’ll stay for the ceremony.
Most of the other questions were directed to the injuries of the day. RB David Wilson went down after catching a pass and running into one of his linemen. Wilson was just recently cleared for action after undergoing neck surgery in the offseason. The injury – you guessed it – was to his neck, a “stinger”, or “burner”. He was sent off to NYC for observation after practice.
Coughlin was non-committal on the status of Wilson’s condition.
“We’ll hear what they (the doctors) have to say first,” he said. “We were all praying that he wouldn’t have an issue and come back to work. He was cleared, as you know. We’ll see. I’m not going to speculate what it is and see what the doctors say.”
Three WRs (Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham, Jr and Trindon Holliday) missed practice Tuesday due to various leg injuries. Coughlin said Beckham, who is not due back until next week at the soonest, came to speak with him today.
“We just had a discussion. Just player-coach, trying to get to know each other a little better. I see his frustration and he sees our frustration. But don’t make it more than what it is,” said Coughlin. “It’s a coach wanting a player on the field and a player wanting a player on the field. It’ll happen and when you’re cleared to go, you’ll go. You’re going to earn the respect of your teammates by what you do on the field and how well you study and work right now.”
Randle was held due to a sore hammy of his own. Holliday had an undisclosed leg ailment. TE Xavier Grimble (hamstring) returned to duty after missing several workouts.
Coughlin was asked his early impression of CB Walter Thurmond III, who was a member of the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning team last February.
“He’s an aggressive player,” the coach said. “He comes from a program that just won. He’s done a nice job at the nickel and a nice job at the corner…but the fact that he was graded very well and we felt that he could be an upgrade was the most important thing (when signing him).”