By Larry Fine
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The New York Giants began serious preparations for their hotly-anticipated Super Bowl matchup against the New England Patriots with a simple message to the players on Thursday.
"When we presented it this morning, it's 'And now there are two,'" coach Tom Coughlin told reporters at the team's practice facility about the February 5 Super Bowl showdown in Indianapolis.
"This team was pretty much written off at one point in time and that makes it even more significant for all of us."
The Giants were 7-7 in mid-December but rallied with five consecutive wins to reach the National Football League's title game for the first time in four years.
"Knowing that we're the only two teams that's playing and practicing today, us and New England, that was probably the greatest feeling," said safety Deion Grant. "Knowing there's not 30 other teams out there that can say that, that feels amazing."
Coughlin described the Giants' first practice since Sunday's win over San Francisco as "OK," and said he expects his team's energy to build by the time they head to Indianapolis on Monday.
"We've been off for a few days," said the coach, whose team did not get home until early Monday following a cross-country flight after the road victory over San Francisco in the National Football Conference title game.
"We had a number of guys who could not participate today. Hopefully we'll get some of them tomorrow and then as we move along we'll get them all back in preparation to play an exceptional New England team."
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks were nursing minor injuries and defensive end Justin Tuck had his shoulder taped and took it easy, but none of them were considered a serious problem.
The Giants have already put in classroom work on the game plan, which is expected to be almost entirely in place before the team leaves for Indianapolis.
The Giants have 15 players on their roster who played in New York's 17-14 upset victory over New England in the Super Bowl four years ago. Coughlin said he has been underlining what the Super Bowl means for the benefit of the younger players.
"It's very important to me that the players understand the historical significance, the opportunity that is there for our team," he said. "We've been building on this theme for some time now, with each step along the way, before we got to the playoffs.
"That what's worthwhile is the sacrifice and self-denial that goes into putting yourself in the best possible position to win, with preparation being the key to success."
"The opportunities for these young guys don't come along very often in their careers."
(Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)