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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Giants Are Putting the G in GPS

As reported by the Wall Street JournalThe culture around Giants football is about as new or modern as their head coach, Tom Coughlin.

Their stadium and practice facility are younger than most, but both are filled with memorabilia and banners dating back to the team's inception in 1925. Likewise, Coughlin—the NFL's oldest coach at age 67—began his career back in 1970, before anyone was too concerned with hydration or soft-tissue injuries.
But to watch the Giants practice now, with their heat breaks and global-positioning devices, you might accuse Coughlin of being forward-thinking—perhaps even cutting edge.
"Coughlin is definitely on the forefront of the GPS," right tackle Justin Pugh said Sunday.
The team has outfitted its players with GPS devices strapped to their backs under their uniforms. The technology can provide the team with information such as top speed, burst and how long the player has run in terms of time and miles.
"We're getting all kinds of information," Coughlin said after Sunday's practice. "It's player related so we have information coming every day on every player."
The Giants aren't eager to discuss the specifics of that information. The team declined a request to make someone available who could speak knowledgeably about the program, which is now in its second year.
The players, on the other hand, are willing to talk about the GPS devices and other gadgets aimed at measuring recovery and preventing injuries.
There are those, such as defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who admittedly give the training staff a hard time. Jenkins likened the experience of strapping a GPS device on his back to being a "test subject." But at this time of year, when jobs are won or lost over health concerns, many players are eager to digest the data.
"I've never done the GPS," said left tackle Charles Brown, who signed with the Giants as a free agent after four years in New Orleans. "I like it, though. It's a way to monitor everything we're doing…heart rate, how much running you've done and at what speed and what angles."
The information gleaned from the GPS can be used in any number of ways.
As Coughlin explained last week, the data can help the coaches structure practices so they know when to do extra stretching or potentially cut down on reps. And with the temperatures soaring during training camp, the Giants have been taking breaks during practice to get out of the sun and hydrate.
Some of the players are even using the information as a means of competition.
"We always look around: 'Who had the most burst? Who had the highest top speed? The workload?'" explained Pugh. "Obviously, the more reps you get, the higher your workload is gonna be. And it definitely helps. The one day we had the recovery day and regeneration, and it helped us with the next practice the next day.
"I always have the top mile per hour," he continued, "so I always hold that over everybody."
Pugh even spoke of a watch that can measure players' sleeping habits. The team only has "like 10," he said, so not everyone has tried it, but the overall purpose is clear: The Giants want to know how much players are working and how they're recovering afterward.
Kicker Josh Brown doesn't wear the GPS or the watch, but he has spent years studying the effects of heart rate and recovery on his own game. As a rookie in Seattle back in 2003, Brown said, he kicked around "50 balls a day." Now he might attempt as few as 18 kicks, as long as they all "look exactly the same," to avoid fatigue and muscle issues.
Back in May, after drafting LSU wideout Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round of the NFL Draft, general manager Jerry Reese boasted about the intensity with which the Louisiana native practiced.
"All of the teams use the GPS like we use, and early in camp, they said his GPS registered from Baton Rouge to New Orleans," Reese said. "That is how hard he works. Because he does all of the special-teams stuff as well, he gets a lot of mileage on his GPS."
Perhaps that mileage could have served as a warning. Beckham has been battling hamstring issues since the spring, and while the direct cause of the injury is unknown, the team will likely look at his workload through a different lens going forward.