East Rutherford, N.J. -- Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is usually a bubbly, fun kind of interview, but during his annual State of the Giants press conference to begin training camp, there was one question that caused him to turn serious and reflective.
“I mean, a year ago I was fighting for my life,” Gettleman said when he was asked how he was doing, a reference to the lymphoma that he was diagnosed with and had to battle at the start of last summer.
Gettleman paused and took a long sip of water to compose himself. “But I’m here, and I’m healthy, and I’m feisty, and like I said in my opening presser, I come in here every day to kick some ass.”
Gettleman has certainly done just that, turning over practically the entire Giants roster since he was hired to replace Jerry Reese in December 2017.
Some of his decisions, though have been head-scratchers while others have downright frustrated the Giants fan base. And through those two years, Gettleman, who swears he has a master plan to fix the Giants franchise, has left many fans wondering if he is the right man to fix this team.
But as Gettleman likes to say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” He began cleaning out the bad seeds in the locker room as soon as he arrived and continued that purge this past off-season, ridding the team of players thought to be more “me-first” guys rather than team guys.
Now it’s all a matter of the team coming together and, to borrow another cliché, “grow old together.”
“It excites me,” Gettleman said of the roster and its prospects. “This is professional football. One of the things we talk to the kids about, is you’re expected to be a pro now. Those guys out there, those veterans out there, when you walk into the locker room, they’re looking at you and saying, ‘Okay, how’s this guy going to help us win?’
“It’s all about responsibilities to grow these guys, quickly. That’s part of the drafting process. Who’s going to have the maturity to handle that? Because this is a different world. I tell them all the time. I tell Dexter (Lawrence) all the time, ‘You’re about to enter a very violent world, okay, where you’re going to be playing against 28, 29-year-old men who want to rip your lungs out. You’re not playing Duke or whomever anymore. You’re not in the ACC anymore. This is the NFL.’
“So yeah, they’ll make youthful mistakes, but if they’re smart, they’ll only make them once. If they play with youthful exuberance, we’ll be fine.”
Receivers Darius Slayton (hamstring) and Alex Wesley (unknown/PUP) remain sidelined. Slayton told reporters before practice that his injury isn’t serious nor is it something, he anticipated will keep him out for the long term.
Some good news about Sterling Shepard. Despite suffering a broken thumb—head coach Pat Shurmur said it was the tip of his thumb—the receiver was at practice doing what he can. Shepard sported a bandage type of wrap on his thumb and was able to work on catching the ball with one hand on the side with trainers.
New tight end Isaiah Seabright continues to be sidelined with a knee ailment for which he’s been sporting a brace.
A few new ailments popped up today. Edge Markus Golden and cornerback Grant Haley both left practice due to cramps. Receiver Brittan Golden suffered a groin injury when he got tangled up with cornerback Antonio Hamilton.
Tight end Evan Engram didn’t participate in any team drills. The Giants said Engram’s workload is being managed. Engram, remember, had suffered a hamstring strain in the spring that cost him the last two weeks of the OTAs.
The Giants are planning to hold a closed workout tomorrow that will feature several wide receivers. Some names that have been floated in various media reports include former Carolina Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin, one-time 49er Bruce Ellington, and former Rutgers receiver Leonte Caroo.
Jenkins Embraces Mentor Role
After the draft, Gettleman spoke about how the team was counting on cornerback Janoris Jenkins to step up and embrace a role as a mentor all the young defensive backs the team added.
Jenkins, nicknamed Jackrabbit, not only heard the challenge, he’s stepped up and is enjoying the role.
“It’s going good so far,” he said Friday. “They’re paying attention to details, they’re taking the notes down, and they’re just ready to play. If I see them messing up, I pick them up a little bit.”
Jenkins’ rather large class includes rookies Julian Love, DeAndre Baker and Corey Ballentine; second-year players Grant Haley and Sam Beal; and younger veterans like Antonio Hamilton. Whenever he can, he keeps a watchful eye on what the youngsters are doing and will offer tips to help them correct any flaws in their technique or advice on how to play specific routes or angles.
Jenkins, who said he mentored teammates while at Florida, tries to keep his advice simple, which is to play ball, pay attention to the details and stay focused.
But he also welcomes the questions from the youngsters because he genuinely enjoys talking ball with his teammates and is not afraid to assert himself a little more just in case a younger player is reluctant to ask a question.
“Of course, you have to assert yourself more. You never know what they’re thinking, these are young guys. So, the more you can talk with them and conversate with them, just about football, and not only football, life, on and off the field – just show them how to be a pro, and they’re going to be pretty good.”
Gettleman said he likes Jenkins’ approach, which can best be described as a mix of being hands-on and hands-off.
“Yesterday, he and DeAndre [Baker] are off on the side. They were spending time [together], and you could see they were talking. Rabbit was talking technique. It was something you hope to see, and the first day right off the bat, we saw it,” he said.
Jenkins admitted that at first, the role took some getting used to simply because he’s more of an introverted type.
“I’m not the guy that likes to talk; I like to play football,” he said. “If you can’t follow a leader that likes to play football, then you have a problem.”
That works for Gettleman.
“Rabbit is a good guy. He’s a good person. He’s a good man. He wants to win. He’s not stupid. He knows that these young kids, these young corners, you know DeAndre, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, and Julian Love, they have to grow up quick. He’s more than happy to help them along.”
And how does the teacher grade his students so far?
“They seem like they’re ready to me,” Jenkins said.
Julian Love continues to get reps at safety. Love has been working with the second-string defense as the free safety with Michael Thomas handling most of the strong safety duties.
Tae Davis continues to challenge B.J. Goodson for one of the off-ball linebacker positions. Davis got some reps with the starting defense on Friday. The advantage Davis, a converted safety, brings to the table is an ability to cover, but he hasn’t quite shown himself to be the thumper that Goodson is in playing downhill.
The first-team receivers were Golden Tate, Cody Latimer, and Bennie Fowler. And undrafted rookie tight end C.J. Conrad, whose initials, I found out, stand for Christian Jacob, got a few reps with the starting offense. Conrad had a couple of catches—I don’t think he’s dropped a pass yet this summer.
Conrad, by the way, will be my special guest on the LockedOn Giants podcast Saturday in a new segment I’m calling “Giants in their Own Words.” The LockedOn Giants podcast is available wherever you find podcasts.
As was the case yesterday, Chad Wheeler received some reps with the first-team offensive line. This time, rookie George Asafo-Adjei also got some reps with the starters, stepping in for Mike Remmers at right tackle. The Giants continue to manage the workloads of both of their projected starting tackles, Nate Solder, and Remmers so that both are ready to go by opening day.
Both Eli Manning and Daniel Jones had sharp practices. Manning’s’ best pass of the day was a deep ball to Golden Tate.
Grant Haley came up with a pick on a pass intended for Russell Shepard that bounced off the receiver. Shepard later made a gorgeous catch on a deep post thrown by Jones.
Lorenzo’s strong camp continued with another “sack.” Carter added some bulk to his frame, and looks so much more at home in this defense than he was last year. He’d been lining up at the right defensive end and had had some plays where he’s torched the left tackle.
Da’ mari Scott, Golden Tate, and Jabrill Peppers were fielding punts. I’m not comfortable with the thought of Tate or Peppers handling that job, but if the Giants can’t find anyone else who shows he can do the job, they might not have a choice.
The Giants have two practices over the weekend, both scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m. Both practices are scheduled to be open to the public and are scheduled to be padded, meaning those in attendance will see hitting.