New York Giants
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The Giants might not have won the game against the Cowboys, but interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo believes that the character shown by the players after experiencing one of the most difficult and emotionally charged two weeks in the franchise's history was admirable.
"I'm really proud of the men in that locker room. I told them that," Spagnuolo said after the Giants, who held the Cowboys to a 10-10 tie through three quarters only to let the dam break open in the fourth quarter en route to a 30-10 loss.
"After all we went through this week, I thought the way we came out and the way we played for three and a half quarters was something we could be proud of."
That's certainly not much consolation to a Giants fan base that is currently witnessing what could be the team's worst record in franchise history should the Giants not win another game this year. But Spagnuolo and quarterback Eli Manning both believe it's something the team can hang its hat on.
"I think the team has done a great job of staying together," Manning said. "It'd be easy to complain, and to bark at each other and say it's not fair and that one side's not doing their part, but we haven't fallen into that trap.
"We have some high-character guys on this team that are working hard every week, doing their absolute best to compete, and I appreciate that. I appreciate the effort, work, enthusiasm to go win a football game."
Spagnuolo agreed. While he no doubt realizes that the Giants don't have the firepower to compete, that the effort has been there is something that he hopes people will appreciate.
"I thought the adversity revealed a lot of good things in our football team," Spagnuolo said. "I do believe that unity strengthens, and I saw unity and that's a sign of a stronger football team in my mind. I would hope that they would continue to do that going forward and then just focus on the next game."
Giants cornerback Eli Apple has had one bumpy sophomore season.
To be fair, part of it is due to the uncertainty that existed earlier in the year about the health of his mother Annie, who eventually underwent successful brain surgery. But for the 22-year-old Apple, a good part of the reason for his rocky second season is self-inflicted.
Earlier this year, he was benched for the team's first three series after reportedly getting into a shouting match with an assistant coach. More recently, the New York Post reported that Apple nearly twice walked out of the Giants team facility after two of his plays were broadcast to teammates during former head coach Ben McAdoo's "brutally honest" team meeting in which he put on display examples of players who weren't giving full effort 100 percent of the time.
Apple was also fined by McAdoo for returning to the team late after the bye week, with McAdoo rejecting Apple's reason as being the poor weather conditions in the New York area that resulted in scores of flights being cancelled.
Apple, the Giants' first-round pick last year, hasn't seen the field in four games. The first two were allegedly due to his lack of practice time because of his mother's surgery; the last two were allegedly due to a mysterious back and hip injury that Apple disputed in a tweet.
And speaking of tweets, Apple broke the NFL's social media policy by tweeting during Sunday's Giants-Cowboys game, an infraction that could result in a fine for the cornerback.
If all that isn't bad enough, at least one of Apple's tweets seemed to take joy in running back Rod Smith, who played with Apple at Ohio State, recording an 81-yard touchdown reception in the win over the Giants.
A second tweet by Apple posted shortly after the loss read, "Gotta smile in times of adversity."
Interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said he was aware of Apple's tweeting and that he had a conversation with the second-year cornerback.
"I told him I was disappointed," Spagnuolo said. "We'll decide exactly what we'll do with it, but it was disappointing. He apologized, and we'll move on."
Spagnuolo admitted that some of Apple's issues this year are a result of frustration because of injuries that have caused him to struggle. But Spagnuolo also said that Apple needs to get his act together and move past the adversity that has seemingly led to destructive behavior by the cornerback.
"I talked with Eli before the game when we deactivated him. He sat in my office and I said, 'Look, we need to get you going. Everybody wants you here helping us out, but this wasn't the week to do it,'" Spagnuolo said.
"He didn't get enough reps during the week. He did get some on Friday. I just didn't think it was enough to have him ready to do the things we were going to do in the defensive game plan and he understood that and the goal there as we shook hands and hugged was, 'Let's get you up and running next week.'"
Spagnuolo said he hasn't necessarily lost hope in Apple, but added that the young defender needs to be more accountable to his teammates.
"He's got to step up, show his teammates, his coaches that he's ready. I believe he wants to and is going to do that. We just need to see him do it," the coach said. "I'm hopeful and optimistic we can get him going. I'm disappointed in the tweeting thing, but hopefully we can get over these hurdles."