ALBANY, N.Y. -- Two days after the Super Bowl champions traded disgruntled four-time Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey, Giants coach Tom Coughlin kicked off training camp on Wednesday by stressing the importance of the team over the individual.
"I think what my position will be and what I think the team will be ready to accept is the fact that the reason we won was because of team," Coughlin said a day before players reported to the University at Albany. "Team over self was why we won."
Coughlin believes the team mantra played into Shockey's desire to leave the organization after six productive years, ending up with the New Orleans Saints.
"I think that with the quality of the individuals that we have, the character of our team, that they certainly are going to realize that the attitude about believing in one another, about supporting one another, about the idea of taking the names off the back of the jerseys, that is what served us best last year," Coughlin said.
Coughlin spent most of the opening minutes of his news conference talking about Shockey, who missed the playoffs with a broken leg and then complained about his role in the offense in the weeks after the stunning upset of the New England Patriots.
"Jeremy Shockey is an excellent football player," Coughlin said. "He is an individual who loved the game, loved to play the game, was a good physical blocker, and a guy when he caught the ball and had it in his hands could make things happen."
However, Shockey was also a distraction that neither Coughlin nor team executives would tolerate. Hence, their willingness to accept second- and fifth-round draft picks from the Saints as compensation, saying it was in the best interests of the team and Shockey, 27, a former first-round draft pick.
Shockey didn't just complain. He accused the team of leaking information to the media. While nursing a badly sprained ankle, he refused to even make a token appearance on the field during a veteran minicamp in June and then got into a shouting match with general manager Jerry Reese.
It all resulted in the trade just days before the opening of camp. It was a deal that surprised teammates and even tight ends coach Mike Pope, who learned of it while flying into Newark Liberty International Airport.
Pope said he believes that in some cases a player can be in one place too long.
"I think the circumstances that happened with the injury and the things that went on in his mind -- having to sit and watch the Super Bowl and watch the team continue to succeed -- I don't think his worth in his own mind diminished, but I think he realized, as this organization realized, the fans and all you folks realized, that organizations and teams can keep moving when individuals aren't there," Pope said.
Pope said he spoke to Shockey several times but was unable to get him to reconcile with the team.
Pope said it will be hard to replace the contributions Shockey made to the running game, but he hopes that second-year pro Kevin Boss, who has gained 20 pounds in the offseason, will step up this season.
The goal for the Giants will be to avoid the problems that have plagued recent Super Bowl winners. New York has failed to get back to the playoffs in the three seasons after they appeared in the title game.
Coughlin plans to discuss that in his first meeting with the players, while reminding them that hard work got them a title last season.
"No one ever gave us or anybody else anything and we don't expect it," he said. "We are not asking for anything."
Pope remembers the challenges from the previous years-after.
"We will be challenged like most of these players can't even imagine," Pope said. "It is going to be undeniably the hardest year in their short careers and they are going to find that out very quickly."
In other areas, Coughlin said:
-- The Giants are ready for the challenge of being targeted this season.
-- Receiver David Tyree, whose phenomenal catch led to the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl -- is not close to being ready to go following offseason knee surgery.
- The team hopes no action will be taken by the NFL against running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who was jailed for a month this summer on an old probation violation.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press