Pierce’s legal problems already causing a distraction

Every training camp, it seems like there’s plenty of controversy surrounding the New York Giants. Th

Distractions come with the territory.

Every training camp, it seems like there’s plenty of controversy surrounding the New York Giants. This year is no exception.

Although the Giants’ rookies are once again signed, and most of the preseason health issues are minor, the future of ninth-year linebacker Antonio Pierce dominated head coach Tom Coughlin’s first training-camp press conference Sunday at University at Albany.

Players arrived, conditioning tests were done indoors because of the rain and Coughlin discussed several topics with the media, including Pierce, who refused to talk to the press after testifying to a grand jury in the Plaxico Burress shooting case this week.

Burress, once the Giants’ go-to receiver who was released in April, shot himself in the leg with his own unregistered gun last year. Pierce not only drove Burress to the hospital, but also, reportedly, took Burress’ gun so it wouldn’t be found by the police. The grand jury could indict Pierce for his part in the case.

“This is a very serious situation,” said Coughlin. “We’re anxious to get started, but our football team has showed its maturity by how it has handled this. I hope this will be resolved quickly. I’m not going to speculate on whether he will be indicted or not, but we support Antonio 100 percent.”

Most observers thought that the Giants could finally concentrate on football alone once the talented, but troublesome, Burress was off the roster, but he still casts a shadow over his former team because his case is still pending, and involves one of the Giants’ leaders on defense.

“We’re trying to move on. We’ll move on, and deal with it as we have to,” said Coughlin.

Pierce’s teammates didn’t think the legal issues would affect the team.

“I’m a little concerned because I don’t really know what’s going on, but I support him. Whenever he comes back, we’ll be here waiting for him,” said defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

“AP is my fearless leader, and I take my hat off to him for keeping his head on straight despite all his distractions,” said linebacker Danny Clack. “All I can do is support him as a friend, and then as a teammate. Hopefully, if we can keep him grounded, he’ll be fine. I’ve talked to him. He’s in great spirits, and he’s ready to come here and prove a lot of naysayers wrong.”

“We can’t do a thing about what’s going on with Antonio,” said running back Brandon Jacobs. “We just pray and hope that he comes out of this OK so that he can play some football, but we don’t have any control of that here, and we just have to get ready for camp, and gat ready for the grind.”

The first two practices of camp will be held this morning from 8:35 to 10:35, and this afternoon from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. All practices are open to the public free of charge. Parking is $5 per day or $15 for a season pass.

“We’re anxious, and we’re excited. We’re looking forward to getting on the football field,” said Coughlin. “Everything in training camp starts at square one. We’re looking forward to getting our rookies and the rest of our new guys integrated. The players were disappointed with the way last year finished, and they are eager to start anew.”

Besides the future of Pierce, the biggest question mark for the Giants this season could be how its youthful receiving corps plays. The departure of Burress and longtime standout Amani Toomer leaves very little experience.

“There has been a lot of attention given to our receiving corps coming into camp. They all did a good job this spring. Let’s find out how good they are. We have some guys, and we expect some outstanding competition at that spot.” Coughlin said.

This is the 14th year of Giants training camp at UAlbany, and Coughlin was asked about the pluses and minuses of being here.

“To me, it’s an opportunity to have five grass fields, plus the stad­ium turf. It’s also an opportunity to bond,” said Coughlin about training so far away from Giants Stadium. “Mayor Jennings has helped us, and we’ve been given everything we’ve needed. That’s the advantage.

“The disadvantage is that if we can’t practice on the fields, like today with the rain, we have nowhere to go. I’m not worried about where our training camp is going to be next year. I’m concerned about this year.”

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