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Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:25 am

Mike Sullivan: Eli Manning is stronger than ever

There are many things about Eli Manning that remain the same since Mike Sullivan was his quarterbacks coach in 2011.

But one thing that’s changed is Manning’s arm strength. Now reunited with Manning again as his quarterbacks coach after three years, Sullivan sees an even stronger Manning.

“I think his arm is very live,” Sullivan said at New York Giants practice on Wednesday. “I don’t think his arm has ever been stronger.”

At 34, Manning is certainly wiser and probably better in some facets of his game than when Sullivan last coached him in 2011. But stronger?

Tom Coughlin concurred with his quarterbacks coach.

“It was that way in the spring, too,” Coughlin said. “… No question about his arm.”

Coughlin certainly hopes Manning and Sullivan’s reunion will bring the kind of results they had together in 2011. During that season, the Giants won their second Super Bowl under Manning, who was clutch and set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes to go with s career-best 4,933 yards that year.

In 2010 under Sullivan’s guidance, Manning threw for a career-high 31 touchdowns as well. Sullivan left after 2011 to become the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay, where he helped the Buccaneers set a franchise record with 5,820 yards of total offense and 389 points.

After a regime change in Tampa Bay, Sullivan spent last season as a consultant, helping the likes of Derek Carr before getting drafted by the Oakland Raiders.

Sullivan is thrilled to be back where he spent 2004-11 as wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach. He has had to learn a new offense under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo but his relationship with Manning has basically picked up where it left off.

If anything has changed about Manning besides his arm strength, the quarterback may be a little rejuvenated entering his second year under the new offensive system.

“He’s the same guy as far as being the ultimate professional, same work ethic and focus and same guy that will bust my chops and other players chops and let some of that Direct TV personality come out,” Sullivan said. “But there is a, I guess you can say that energy from the standpoint that this is not a system that he had been in for eight years, 10 years, and to be kind of be rejuvenated and have that extra motivation.”

Last season under then-quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf, Manning was challenged to complete 70 percent of his passes. Manning completed a career-high 63.1 percent of his passes last season.

Sullivan did not set a certain number with the media for his quarterback to reach this season. But he is eager to see what a stronger Manning can do this season.

“He looks like he’s got a lot of zip on the football,” Sullivan said. “He has worked hard to take care of his body and work on the fundamentals and techniques. His focus on the little things … it’s interesting watching tape, another one of the quarterbacks will be in and he’s off to the side practicing his footwork versus air.

“There are little things that a guy that has his experience, two-time Super Bowl MVP and the things that he has done, yet he just has the mentality as though he’s a free agent trying to make the ball club. That aspect hasn’t changed. If anything, he’s even hungrier than I remember when we were together.”
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Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:26 am

Ereck Flowers, Jameel McClain, Prince Amukamara among injured Giants Wednesday

The first full-pads practice of New York Giants training camp had a couple of casualties -- and a couple of guys who weren't healthy enough to answer the bell in the first place.

Rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers missed his second practice in a row with a hip flexor injury, which was somewhat expected. But starting center Weston Richburg joined him on the sideline due to what coach Tom Coughlin described as tendinitis in his knee. That resulted in a first-team offensive line of Justin Pugh at left tackle, Adam Gettis at left guard, Dallas Reynolds at center, Geoff Schwartz/John Jerry rotating at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.

Let's just say the only reason the quarterbacks didn't take a beating was because the defense isn't allowed to hit them. It wasn't for lack of opportunity.

Flowers spoke to the media before practice and said he was feeling better and not worried about missing extensive time. But even two missed practices constitute a potential setback for a rookie trying to get up to speed at left tackle before the Sept. 13 season opener. The Giants had been giving Flowers first-team and second-team reps to try to get him up to speed.

"He's much improved," Coughlin said of Flowers's health. "Whether they let him go (Thursday), I don't know. But he is much improved."

Also sitting out practice was safety Nat Berhe, who seems to still be dealing with the same calf injury that cost him the June minicamp and several organized team activities.

There was a scary moment during practice when linebacker Jameel McClain lay on his back following a hit and didn't seem to be able to move his legs at first. McClain eventually got up and left the field on his own power, but he did not return to practice, and Coughlin described his injury as a "stinger." This is worth watching because McClain suffered a significant spinal cord injury late in the 2012 season and didn't return until the second half of 2013. Anything involving McClain's neck or spine will be treated very seriously.

Finally, cornerback Prince Amukamara injured his groin in one-on-one drills and sat out the remainder of practice. Best guess is the Giants hold him out at least another day just to be sure.
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Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:28 am

The 2015 Draft Day Manifesto

The first thing you should know is that Thomas Wilson's last name isn't actually Wilson. It has been changed to provide anonymity, but I bring it up because I want to assure you that everything else you are about to read is true.

Thomas is the commissioner of a 12-team re-draft league based in Indiana, formed by school buddies in 2008. It's a job he takes seriously. As he explains, "Hundreds of emails a week, even during the offseason ... it's a real league." It's a league filled with traditions, including the fact that the winner gets to choose the draft location the next year. As champion the year of our story, Thomas had chosen a remote cabin in the woods.

I get it, Thomas. Draft day is serious business. Can't be distracted by anything else that weekend. Not other friends, not romantic partners, not one of your league members in jail.

Wait, what?

"Yeah," Thomas said, "a few months before the draft, we found out that one of our members got into a bit of a legal scuffle. He was pleading guilty to a charge that carried with it a three-year mandatory minimum sentence."

OK, Thomas, that's not a "bit of a legal scuffle." A bit of a legal scuffle is a speeding ticket. A bit of a legal scuffle is a cop yelling at you and threatening to arrest you. A bit of a legal scuffle is trying to figure out how to tell your wife you watched two episodes of "Big Brother" without her and then deleted them. (She doesn't read my column, you guys, so mum's the word, OK?)

"Well," Thomas continued, "'Either way, there was a fundamental misunderstanding over the legality of certain controlled substances and, most importantly, Guy's (not his real name) sentencing hearing was the day before our draft."


A meeting was quickly called of the Council of Elders, a subgroup within the league, to decide on a course of action. Obviously, they had to notify the league in a tactful way, and a modification of the constitution began to allow for caretaker managers.

But Thomas, well, Thomas is one of us. A fantasy football player. A commish. A fanatic.

And he did what we all do. What you're doing right now. He researched. And researched. And researched some more. Poring over the state's Department of Corrections website to see how lineup changes could possibly be made from jail. Weekly phone calls? Letters? Do they get email access?

But Thomas didn't stop there. No, he kept reading. Every inch of the website, every piece of information he could find. This was his league mate he was talking about. This was his draft day. And he is the commissioner.

It took a while, but Thomas found out that the three-year sentence for this crime could actually be served in any way the judge sees fit. Three years in jail, two years in jail and one year home detention ... completely up to the judge's discretion.

So ... you're saying there's a chance?

"Yeah," Thomas continued, "But a slim one. The prosecutors were pushing hard for all jail time, and even his own lawyer was saying he's getting at least a year in the slammer. No way around it."

But you don't become the commissioner of a league by taking the easy way out. Or taking "no" at face value. So Thomas knew that if he wanted, he could write a letter to the judge on Guy's behalf, asking for leniency. If the judge wants, he can consider such letters in making his/her decision.

It's not an easy letter to write, of course. It could wind up in public record with his name on it, and it's a long shot.

But, as Thomas says: "Of course I had to write the letter. Not because he's a good guy who just screwed up, although that's true. Not because some of our country's laws are screwed up, although they are. No, I had to write the letter because I'm the commissioner, and this incarceration was going to totally screw up our league."

So Thomas wrote the letter. His wife is a public defender, so she gave Thomas strategic advice on exactly what kind of language to use. Writing and rewriting, making sure every word was carefully considered and every phrase was strong, Thomas did draft after draft. "I poured my soul onto that page," he remembers.

Draft weekend comes soon and the league has gathered, ratifying the new constitution that involved a convoluted autodraft scheme for Guy when suddenly, an email pops up to the league.

"I'm coming to the draft. I need a ride."

It was Guy!

He had gotten three years' home detention, no jail time. And the detention wouldn't start for another two weeks, so he could attend the draft in person.

And are you ready for this?

The judge, in rendering his lenient judgment, read Thomas' entire letter from the bench as justification!

"When Guy got to the cabin, he told us that as soon the hearing was over, his parents walked up, embraced him and then had one simple question, uttered with a bewildered sense of urgency: 'Who wrote that letter? He said he knew you and your family, and we've never even heard of him.'"

"Oh him? He's my fantasy football commissioner."

You're damn right he is.

And for his part, Thomas doesn't think he lied about the part that referenced family. "After exchanging hundreds of emails a week for half a decade, including some of the most personally offensive insults imaginable, I truly believe there is no closer social relationship than that forged by a proper fantasy league."

Well said, Thomas, and it brings us meandering slowly into the 17th edition of the Draft Day Manifesto. Between the preparation, the location, the traditions, the picking of the order, the actual selections and everything else that goes into it, there's no day more important than draft day. Even if you're in jail.

And so, we're here to once again get you ready for the day that my very first commissioner, Don Smith, would always remark, "It's only the best day of the year."

So sit back. Put your feet up. May I take your drink order? Because we are going to be here a while. As always, the Manifesto has something for everyone. Some basic stuff for beginners, some advanced theory for longtime players and at least one new joke for my editor.

Some things about the Manifesto remain unchanged. It's long, there's some blatant promotion for my New York Times best-selling book "Fantasy Life" (now available as a free app!), and it starts with the secret to winning fantasy football.

At a fundamental level, fantasy football is all about minimizing risk and giving yourself the best odds to win on a weekly basis. That's it. That simple. Everything leads back to that. Everything.

A year ago, everyone was talking about rookie wide receivers, but no one thought the guy who had missed the preseason with a hammy injury and didn't get on the field until game No. 5 would put up the second-best fantasy season by a rookie wideout in NFL history ... in just 12 games. That a third-string running back from the Broncos would outscore LeSean McCoy; that Joe Flacco would finish outside the top 12 in fantasy scoring among QBs but still score more than Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler. Or that pretty much everyone would outscore a healthy Adrian Peterson.

You can't predict the future. I definitely can't predict the future. No one can predict the future. Those who try to are doomed to fail. So all you can do is play the odds. Put yourself in the best position to win, hope for the best and let the chips fall where they may. Do that and you won't win every single time, but you will more often than not. That's true in life as well.

What follows now are 15 thoughts on how to put yourself in the best possible position to win.
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Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:29 am

Antonio Cromartie: Tom Brady should have been fined, not suspended

New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is no fan of Tom Brady -- he once gave a profane description of Brady in a newspaper article -- but he said the New England Patriots quarterback is being unfairly penalized by the NFL for his role in the deflated footballs scandal.

"Honestly, I don't think he should be suspended," said Cromartie, who appeared Thursday on ESPN's First Take from Jets training camp.

"[The Patriots] got fined. They got took away draft picks. The maximum fine, I think, is $25,000. In the rulebooks, there is no suspension in the rules. There's only a $25,000 fine. I don't see how you can try to lay the hammer down on someone when the rule states for itself there is no suspension, just a maximum fine of $25,000."

The outspoken cornerback called out Roger Goodell, criticizing the commissioner for his handling of the matter. Cromartie also said it sends a loud message to the rest of the league.

"Nobody is safe," Cromartie said. "No matter who you are, Roger is going to do what he's going to do. He's going to make his own rules as he goes. It shouldn't be like that."

Cromartie backtracked a bit, noting the NFL Players Association "gave him the freedom" to rule on player appeals.

"We signed the CBA, so it's ... we're at our own fault for doing it," Cromartie said. "We should've been more detailed. We shouldn't have rushed. We should've pushed another month-and-a-half [in the 2011 negotiations] and made those owners lose money and go from there."

Speaking to reporters after practice, Cromartie reiterated his stance against Goodell.

"The commissioner has always had the [power to] discipline," Cromartie said. "I just feel like, at this point in time, with the discipline he put forth, he stepped outside the rules and made his own rules."

Brady's four-game suspension doesn't directly affect the Jets because they don't face the Patriots until Week 6 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Nevertheless, it was unusual to see one of their players show support for their No. 1 nemesis.

"I want to see New England at their best, even though we don't play them until Week 6," Cromartie said. "I want them to be at full strength and not have any excuses."

Interestingly, cornerback Darrelle Revis, who played for the Patriots last season, remained neutral on whether Brady deserves the suspension. But, like many across the country, he's tired of the controversy.

"I think it's dragged a little bit too far," Revis said on First Take. "It's a little bit too much. I feel that he got the suspension of four games, and [he should] live with it. I don't know all the information; I don't know everything about the whole situation, but Tom, I know he's a competitor. I know he wants to win. It's unfortunate what's going on."

Revis revealed that Brady addressed the team after the AFC Championship Game, when accusations of deflating the footballs first surfaced.

"After that game, going into the Super Bowl, Tom spoke to the team, and it seemed like he was very hurt about what was being said about Deflategate and what was said about him, and I think he just tried to clear the air in that moment," Revis said. "And then after the Super Bowl and we won, it just blew up into a bigger issue."
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Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:32 am

Demaryius Thomas endorses Peyton Manning's arm strength

Because he is the most accomplished wide receiver on the Denver Broncos roster and has been running routes for Peyton Manning since 2012, Demaryius Thomas is usually a gauge for Manning's game at any given time.

Thomas said Thursday that Manning's passes are stronger and faster in this training camp compared to last year's.

"He's smiling. I feel like he's good," Thomas said after practice. "I don't know if you all are going to believe what I say, but I think it's a little more zip on it. I don't know how he can do that. He's an older guy -- one of the oldest guys on the team -- but I feel like every year around this time, there's almost more zip on his ball. You can notice it. He threw a couple posts, probably 50, 60 yards, and I'm like, 'Whoa.'"

Manning, 39, joined the Broncos in 2012 and is entering his 18th season in the league.

Thomas, a sixth-year pro, is playing catch-up on offense since he skipped the Broncos' offseason program as his representatives and the team negotiated what became a five-year, $70 million deal.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, he has steadily been given more playing time in practice. On Thursday, Thomas took part in the some team drills as well.

"I feel good to be back out there and to be able to run more than two or three routes at a time," he said. "I feel good. I look forward to getting in better shape and being able to go longer."

Last year, Manning was slowed by a thigh injury he suffered in December, and his second half of the season did not match his first. He threw 24 touchdowns and five interceptions in the season's first eight games compared with 15 and 10 in the season's second half.

Manning said earlier this offseason that one of the biggest aspects of his decision to return for 2015 was making sure he was physically ready to close the season strong. He called it asking "the tough questions."

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has said he plans to rest Manning from time to time in training camp. Manning had the first of those days off on Monday. Kubiak said it is something the team will look at in the regular season as well "to make sure Peyton feels good down the stretch and [is] playing well."
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Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:24 pm

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Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:46 pm

Genti wrote:???
Let him be, he's on a roll.
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