EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As far as Eli Manning is concerned, the fulfillment of teammate Justin Tuck's claim that the New York Giants can turn into an NFL dynasty began Wednesday with the first organized team activity.
"It starts," Manning said, "right now."
With player equipment limited to only helmets in this phase of OTAs, coaches conducted non-contact drills at the Timex Performance Center. And while nothing spectacular happened, the champions were indeed back on the field with some new additions, like first-round draft pick David Wilson.
"Basically, it's a chance for the young guys to get out there and the coaches are trying to simplify things for them," Manning said. "We've got new guys and we've got to get them used to our style of play.
"It's getting used to how we practice, how we prepare. When we come to the practice field, it's all business and full speed."
While the two-time, Super Bowl MVP quarterback indicated he has dynastic dreams, he said the team simply needs to improve, starting with him.
"I'm just trying to play at my level and my potential," Manning said.
Tuck, though, reiterated his plans to collect three more rings to go along with the two he already has.
"Why shouldn't we be (a dynasty)," Tuck asked. "I feel very confident in this team and this staff every year."
And this year, a seasoned Victor Cruz plans to embrace a new role that Tuck and Manning already have: leader.
"It's a unique situation," Cruz said. "I'm one of the older guys now, and the younger players look up to you. I'd like to think I can make an impression on the younger guys that through seeing the things that I do, they can see that things will happen through hard work."
Cruz finished last season with 82 catches and 1,536 yards receiving, which was a franchise single-season record. He also had nine touchdowns.
But the feel-good, back-to-work day was not without an injury. In fact, in the opening minutes, fourth-year cornerback Brian Witherspoon went down in a simple position drill with yet another torn ACL. Witherspoon, who would have played in the secondary on passing downs and on special teams, missed all of last season when he tore the same one in the preseason.
While on the ground, his teammates knelt in prayer.
"It was heartbreaking," defensive back Terrell Thomas said. "It was just a Cover-2 drill, and the knee gave out. It's just tough to see because we know what he went through coming off an injury. You've got to go back out there and do it."