After following up a Super Bowl run in 2011 with a disappointing 2012 in which they missed the playoffs altogether, the New York Giants 2013 campaign isn't getting off to the best of starts.
With the Giants gathered for organized team activities, it's been one piece of bad news after another. The latest came on Tuesday, when Mike Garafalo of USA Today reported that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul underwent back surgery to repair a disc problem that has bothered him since last year.
That injury may explain (at least partially) why Pierre-Paul's sacks dropped from 16.5 in 2011 to 6.5 a year ago, and a source informed Garafalo that Pierre-Paul is expected to be ready for Week 1.
However, Pierre-Paul will now enter training camp on the on the physically unable to perform list, giving head coach Tom Coughlin one more thing to worry about, especially given the recovery timeline provided by ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Giants announced JPP underwent back surgery this morning and recovery time expected to be 12 weeks. Do the math...— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 4, 2013
Until the Pierre-Paul news broke, most of Coughlin's headaches were coming courtesy of New York's star wide receivers.
Both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, who are each seeking contract extensions from the team, have been missing from OTAs. The absence of the 25-year-old Nicks, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal after an injury-marred 2012 season, has been especially irksome to Coughlin, who told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN that "Certainly I am [disappointed]. At one point Hakeem told me he was going to be here, and then he was not here."
This is where things get a little weird. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, a "source with knowledge of Nicks’ situation" revealed that Nicks told the Giants he wouldn't be at OTAs, which are voluntary.
That's understandable. Coming off a season in which he missed three games and was limited in others, Nicks may simply not want to risk an injury, especially in light of what happened to Michael Crabtree in San Francisco and the fact that Nicks broke his foot during OTAs last year.
What isn't understandable is that according to Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News, this is all news to the Giants.
Hakeem Nicks has been missing for two weeks. So has anyone on the Giants talked to him? Said Tom Coughlin: "As far as I know, no one has."— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) May 30, 2013
If the apparent disconnect between Nicks and the Giants is unsettling, the latest news about Cruz is just surreal.
The 26-year-old Cruz, who had 86 catches for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012, has yet to sign the restricted free agent tender that would pay him $2.9 million in 2013.
Fresh off the news from ESPN's Ed Werder (via Rotoworld) that talks between the Giants and Cruz have "stalemated" came a report from James Desborough of The New York Daily News that Cruz was in talks to star in his own reality TV show.
“We are still fielding some requests, so we will see how it goes — the timing has to be right, and I have got to squeeze in some training in there before the season starts. “I definitely want it to be my show, my own thing, something that I can contribute to and something I like to do, I can be comfortable with, and an easy show, something people like to watch and that people can be in tune with on a daily basis.
At this point Coughlin probably threw a stapler through a window, but the weirdness isn't over yet.
There was considerable backlash after the Daily News story was published, and Cruz wasted no time taking to Twitter to deny it, even though he's quoted extensively in it.
This is truly God testing me for something much bigger. Never EVER doing a reality show. Nor am I in talks for one. #NYmediaboredom— Victor Cruz (@TeamVic) June 3, 2013
Sure it's possible that Cruz was misquoted. It's also very possible that he wasn't, but after seeing how fans reacted to the idea Cruz reconsidered. The team may well have gotten involved too.
Odds are we'll never know one way or another, but one thing is certain. The Giants don't need this.
As you can see from the chart, the Giants have been the most consistent team in the NFC East over the past five seasons. However, they've also "plateaued" over the past couple of years, much like the Dallas Cowboys.
And no Giants fan ever wants the team compared to the Cowboys.
That isn't to say that the Giants can't win the NFC East. Of course they can. However, in a division where three of the four teams won at least eight games last year it's not going to be easy, especially since most people believe the Eagles will be better than 4-12 in 2013.
What is the Giants' biggest problem this offseason?
All these injuries and distractions aren't helping matters, especially given who we're talking about.
Pierre-Paul is probably the Giants' best player on defense. With Osi Umenyiora now in Atlanta and Justin Tuck coming off back-to-back down years, the Giants were counting on Pierre-Paul to anchor a pass rush that dropped from fourth in the NFL in sacks in 2011 to 22nd a year ago.
Nicks and Cruz are integral parts of New York's offense. With Nicks hobbled for much of the 2012 season, Eli Manning's passing yardage dropped by nearly 1,000 yards.
Granted, it's possible that this is all much ado about nothing, that these "stories" are little more than smoke blown by a media hard up for offseason storylines, and that all three players will be on the field when the Giants travel to Dallas in Week 1.
However, Pierre-Paul's injury certainly wasn't manufactured, and as the number of issues potentially facing the G-Men before the 2013 even gets underway continues to grow, so does that cloud of smoke.
And where's there's smoke, there's fire.