EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese finally met the media for the first time since the day before the team reported to training camp, a much different and happier time for the franchise.
With the 1-6 Giants stuck in perhaps their worst season during Reese's tenure, the embattled general manager took ownership for his role in the mess and vowed that the franchise was not about to throw in the towel with nine games left.
"This roster -- it's my roster. I'm responsible for everybody on the roster and I'll take ownership to where we are right now with this 1-6 start," Reese said in his opening statement.
Reese then claimed the team might have grown content with their 11 games won last season that got most of the prognosticators opining that the Giants were going to be a Super Bowl contender.
He said: "There was a lot of chatter about how good the team looked and how good it looked on paper and we also talked about the Super Bowl and just things like that. But, in this business, the 11 games we won last year - that's over with. You have to start over every time and you have to earn wins and you have to do it the right way."
The Giants, who are currently on their bye week, were told by head coach Ben McAdoo to take some time away from football, rest and get their bodies and minds right for what essentially will boil down to a nine-game season when they return on Monday.
It's not going to be easy. Thanks to injuries, the Giants have to rely on young and inexperienced receivers like Travis Rudolph, Ed Eagan and Tavarres King to help fuel the passing game.
Quarterback Eli Manning said he's ready to take on a bigger role as needed to help bring those receivers up to speed.
"I think that's definitely part of the job," he said. "You got to find out what guys do well and put them in a position to make plays, throw accurate passes and give them a shot to make plays. So, it's a combination. We have to make improvements. I have to - not coach them up - but make sure we're doing things the right way and everybody is playing at a high level."
Reese would also like to see the team prepare better for their games.
"You have to do the little things right and it starts with preparation," he said. "You have to prepare during the week. You don't win the game on Sunday. You win the game during the week when you practice."
It remains to be seen if the players will take the message to heart as the 2013 team did when, after an 0-6 start, it banded together to win seven of its last nine games, including a four-game winning streak midway through.
Perhaps it's that history that has Reese clinging to a shred of optimism.
"We have nine games to play and I feel like, don't count us out yet," Reese said.
"We've been left for dead by a lot of people, but don't count us out yet. We're going to go into the second half of the season, give it everything we have, do some self-evaluations and figure out what we can do better, what things we have done good, what we've done bad, how can we manufacture and win football games. That's where our focus is moving forward."
--Giants quarterback Eli Manning probably though he had seen everything over the course of his illustrious NFL career.
Then came the great receiver wipeout of 2017, an event in which Manning saw four of his five veteran receivers - Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Dwayne Harris -- all hit by injuries, with Beckham, Marshall and Harris all suffering season-enders.
With more than half a season still before him, Manning doesn't have time to feel sorry for himself or to wring his hands in worry about how he's going to make the passing game work with a group of inexperienced players: Ed Eagan, Tavarres King, Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph.
Instead, he has thrown his support behind the replacement receivers, all of whom were with the Giants at some point during this past training camp.
"I mean, everybody knows their assignments. It's guys who have been here, so they're running the right routes," Manning said.
Right routes or not, there's no disputing the numbers. In the two games the replacement group has played, they've caught seven out of 21 pass attempts for 67 yards.
Manning wasn't interested in the numbers, however. Instead, he was more interested in helping to get those young receivers acclimated to the speed of a regular-season game.
"I think they're doing a good job," he said. "We got to give them an opportunity. We got to give them shots to make plays. So, this isn't the receivers' fault. They're doing some good things. It's our job to give them an opportunity to get open."
One thing that could help the unit is the return of Sterling Shepard after the bye week. Shepard, who was originally on track to play last weekend against the Seahawks until he aggravated his ankle in the team's Thursday's practice, was confident that he'd be good to go after the team returned from its bye week.
"I think the bye week couldn't have come at a more perfect time," he said, adding that he planned to stay in East Rutherford so he could continue to get treatment on his ankle. "So, trying to get it back right."
When he returns to action, Shepard, as the most experienced member of the group, will do what he can to help Manning and the coaches bring the young receivers up to speed.
"We have to go back to business. We don't have some of the same faces," he said. "When you have veterans like Odell (Beckham, Jr.) and you have Brandon (Marshall), you don't have to really hold that accountability for those guys, you know? They pretty much know what they're doing.
"But when you have new faces, you kind of have got to make sure everybody's on their p's and q's.
--Since he was drafted ninth overall in 2015, left tackle Ereck Flowers has become the favorite target of the fans' ire for all that is wrong with the football team.
General manager Jerry Reese, however, believes that directing the anger and placing the blame for the team's misfortunes on Flowers isn't fair.
"It seems like this is a common theme, everybody wants to beat up on Ereck Flowers," Reese said during his annual bye-week press conference Tuesday.
"Ereck Flowers is not the reason we're 1-6, OK? He's still a young player, he's been a starter for us for three years, I still believe he will develop and get better. He's gotten better as the season has gone on, so far. But again, it's a common theme for people to take swipes at Ereck. Ereck is not the only reason that we're 1-6."
While Reese is correct that the blame for the Giants' worst start since 2013 isn't the result of one player, Flowers' glacier-like development is alarming.
According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers has allowed 21 total pressures (hits, sacks and hurries), the ninth most among offensive tackles who have played at least 75 percent of their team's snaps.
The former Miami offensive lineman has also led the Giants in penalties in each of his first two seasons with the team, his performance marred by inconsistent technique that borderlines on lazy at times.
Yet Reese, perhaps out of desperation to avoid admitting that Flowers really wasn't worthy of being drafted ninth overall, continued his passionate defense of Flowers, a player who interestingly has been barely criticized by anyone in the organization for his struggles.
"I think Ereck has improved. I think he works hard and I think everybody has an opinion about where players should be played and what their development is. All young players do have to develop. I do think he's developed," Reese said.
"Is he going to be our long-term left tackle? We don't know that, but if you look at him compared to a lot of left tackles around the National Football League, there's a bunch of comparables around."
Reese's strange defense of Flowers didn't stop there.
"Ereck is a big boy and there's been guys that have been picked higher than him in the offensive line who have struggled," he said. "Different positions struggle at different times and I do think he's working hard and I do think he's improving and we'll continue to support him and hopefully he'll continue to improve and be a good player."
The Giants will need to decide whether to pick up the option year on Flowers' rookie deal after this season. According to sources, that decision, unlike the one made to pick up the option years of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and offensive lineman Justin Pugh is not a slam dunk.
NOTES: WR Sterling Shepard expressed optimism that he would be ready to go after the bye week. Shepard told reporters that he tweaked his ankle last Thursday, which set him back in his goal to get on the field before the bye week. The second-year receiver said he planned to remain in East Rutherford to receive treatment over the bye week. ... DE Olivier Vernon is targeting a post bye-week return to action. Vernon, who has missed three games due to an ankle sprain suffered in Week 3, is staying in New Jersey where he can continue to receive treatment. ... LB B.J. Goodson remained in a walking boot for the ankle sprain he suffered in Sunday's loss to the Seahawks. Goodson wouldn't say if his was a high ankle sprain, but he did note that he planned to remain in East Rutherford to receive treatment. ... OL Justin Pugh (back) is expected to remain sore while he continues to receive treatment on his back, injured in Sunday's loss. Head coach Ben McAdoo said it was too soon to tell if Pugh would be available for their next game.