Big Blue has brawn on the brain

The message has been simple. And it's been delivered during the offseason over and over again like a politician's slogan.

Tom Coughlin's mantra for the New York Giants in 2010 is something that Olivia Newton-John would wholeheartedly endorse.

It's time for the Giants to get physical again.

"We need to get back to playing the game the way we are capable of playing it and the style that this team has been designed to play, and that is a physical game," the Giants' head coach said Thursday. "Stopping the run, running the ball, outstanding kickoff coverage … the physical nature of the game has to come first."

As they open perhaps the most pivotal training camp of the Coughlin era Sunday, the Giants want to get back to their old smashmouth ways. They want to be the ones punching opponents in the mouths and not the ones taking it on the chin, which was the case way too often last season.

A defense that was once used to stomping on opponents got stomped on last season during a disastrous 8-8 season. After watching his team start 5-0 before suffering a complete meltdown, Giants president John Mara uncharacteristically lambasted the team, setting the tone for the offseason and making it clear that another debacle will not be tolerated.

"John's the owner," Coughlin said. "He is expressing what he felt. It wasn't a pleasant end to the season last year. Last year was a disappointing season. We were 5-0 and ended up 8-8 and nobody is happy, and everybody wants to do something about it."

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was hired to restore toughness to a unit that completely lost its way. The Giants used five of their seven draft picks on defensive players, with their first two selections spent on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Linval Joseph.

And the Giants added some veteran free agents, like safety Antrel Rolle and linebacker Keith Bulluck, to help replace Pierce's leadership, experience and personality.

"An outstanding piece to the puzzle," Coughlin said when describing Bulluck.

The Giants' jigsaw puzzle is still incomplete. There are question marks everywhere, from the running game to the offensive line to Osi Umenyiora's health and starting status to Kenny Phillips' surgically repaired knee.

One thing that does not remain an unknown, however, is the Giants' team-wide desire to erase last season's collapse from their memories.

"It probably was the worst ending imaginable," Mathias Kiwanuka said. "It is something that is going to carry on until we open up that first game this year."

And until the Giants christen the new Meadowlands stadium and open the season against Carolina, Coughlin understands that people will be talking more about other teams -- like Dallas and Donovan McNabb's Redskins -- than the Giants. Even in New York, all the talk is about the Jets right now.

It's time for the Giants to get physical and muscle their way back into the spotlight.

"That's fine," Coughlin said. "The talk should come with some results and it should take place as we play games, and that is what this is all about."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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