Memories of Albany Haunt Giants & Jets Joint Practice
It was my third year working New York Giants training camp, as part of my responsibilities as the Associate Athletic Director at the University at Albany. Back then, from the beginning of July until mid-August, the Giants' front office personnel would occupy the athletic administration offices of the Great Danes and many of us had camp responsibilities. In those days, there were two-a-day practices and about three to five thousand fans would show up each day to see head coach Tom Coughlin and his team.
August 5, 2005 was different. The New York Jets were coming up for the the day for a combined practice, a logistical madhouse from my standpoint of admissions and parking. However, everyone knew it would be an interesting day with Gang Green and their boisterous head coach, Herm Edwards visiting the Giants and UAlbany. By some counts, nearly 10,000 fans poured onto campus to get a glimpse of both teams.
It was battle of the #10 quarterbacks in New York. Eli Manning was in the midst of his second training camp with Big Blue.
Chad Pennington was in his 6th camp with the Jets and the expectations were high following a 2004 overtime loss in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I remember watching the first rumble between the two teams. It was on the main practice field, where Tom & Mary Casey Stadium stands today. I had never seen so many people on the campus of UAlbany as it did that hot Saturday morning. I have to say, the biggest roars came when there were some dust-ups between the blue and the green.
Who got it all started? Well there is little disputing that. Former Jets safety Eric Coleman described the first altercation to espn.com. "The first 9 on 7 drills, myself and Oliver Celestin were the safeties. 9 on 7 is a run drill and they go to run a play, and Jeremy Shockey goes and blocks Oliver. The whistle blows and he just keeps blocking him," Coleman told espn.com. "He keeps going and I'm like, 'Oh, yeah?' I run over to him and I start punching Jeremy. I tackled him on the ground and it starts this huge brawl. All of our Jets guys jump on top. We're all fighting. A lot of the Giants guys are on the sideline, just watching." I may have to dispute that last part. The Giants players all seemed to come to Shockey's defense. At least that is my recollection of the event and I'm a Jets fan!
How intense was the practice from a fan's standpoint? According to Zach Rosenblatt of theathletic.com, Joe Ruback, a diehard Giants fan was in the stands and said, “All hell broke loose, and from where I was, I just saw haymakers and players jumping on top of each other. Every play after that the defense was hitting the Giants players like it was a meaningful game. After practice, I was looking around for (diehard Jets fan) Fireman Ed, like at the end of a hockey game when the goalies gotta go at it.” I know the fans enjoyed every minute of it.