The Giants weren’t making any systemic changes by bringing in mercurial TE Martellus Bennett. The franchise needed depth at the position and the former Dallas Cowboy was the best option available in free agency.
However, the way the team -- and in particular, coach Tom Coughlin -- has accepted him is indicative of a cultural shift.
Through the first few weeks of training camp, Bennett (6-6, about 280 pounds) has referred to himself as a black unicorn, the black Vince Vaughn and the black Will Ferrell; and to top it off, he gave the beat writers a lesson on the parenting skills of pandas.
There was a time that Coughlin probably wouldn’t have tolerated that kind of behavior --particularly from a new player. But the veteran coach admitted Sunday, he’s “more patient” now than he was earlier in his career and he’s actually enjoying Bennett’s playful demeanor.
“I like them to have their own personality,” Coughlin said. “I just like them to be able to structure it within the concept of trying to keep the focus on the game or on the field and on the team.
“But I don’t like robots,” he continued before ultimately performing a robot mime. “I like to kid around with them once in awhile too, but I like it when they realize when it’s acceptable and when it isn’t acceptable.”
Coughlin said Bennett has “gotten better” at that distinction. Of course, there is the chance the former Texas A&M star is just playing well and the Giants' coach is having trouble separating one from the other.
In his first appearance with the Giants, Bennett was targeted three times and made three catches -- including one touchdown reception -- against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday. Most importantly, Coach Coughlin was impressed.
“I liked what I saw,” Coughlin said. “He blocked. He did a nice job while he was in there, made a nice catch, obviously.”
Bennett’s review of his performance wasn’t completely congruent with Coughlin’s. He said there was “a couple” of things he could have done better in terms of blocking, but felt he “held his own.”
Bennett had another solid practice on Sunday, catching one 30-yard pass from backup QB David Carr and outrunning S Will Hill the rest of the way for a touchdown. Afterward he surrounded himself with Giants fans, signing autographs and answering questions.
This isn’t the type of experience Bennett had in Dallas. Playing behind All-Pro Jason Witten -- who he described as a “technician” -- Bennett only made 17 catches last season, which is a statistic that belies his obvious talent. Now, though, Bennett appears to be getting a chance to contribute as the only remotely proven tight end on the roster besides Bear Pascoe.
“I think there’s a lot of room for me for growth in this offense,” Bennett said, before making several references to his increased happiness.
He wouldn’t explain the precise source of his previous dissatisfaction, but Bennett did give some clues.
“I’m just happy to be somewhere where I feel wanted and needed and everybody is embracing me as a leader and as a player,” he said.
And one of the first to embrace Bennett has undoubtedly been Coughlin.
Follow the Giants and Alex Raskin @CBSSportsNFLNYG and @AlexRaskinNYC.