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Inside Zak DeOssie's road to return

Posted Sep 16, 2016

Zak DeOssie discusses his wrist injury and rehab as he returned to game action in Week 1:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Zak DeOssie was unimpressed with his first snap in 2016.

“It was garbage,” DeOssie said.

With good reason. It was DeOssie’s initial attempt at snapping a football since he underwent extensive surgery on his right wrist on Dec. 9, a procedure that not only allowed him to continue his career, but lead a normal life. He has come a long way since then and after fending off a young challenger in training camp, DeOssie is settling into his 10th season as the Giants’ snapper.

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DeOssie will be in his familiar position Sunday, when the 1-0 Giants play their home opener against the New Orleans Saints. But for DeOssie, the lead-up to this season was much different because of what happened at the end of last year. He sat out the final four games of the season, the first he missed after playing in 140 straight to start his career. He was placed on injured reserve the day before his surgery.

“It was very weird,” DeOssie said. “I had never missed a game. Once I missed that first game, you just focus on what needs to be done to get back into the game. There were some thoughts about coming back off a wrist injury, etcetera. But once that first snap happened in the first preseason game, all those worries and thoughts went away.”

In addition to handling all of the Giants’ snapping duties last week in the victory in Dallas, DeOssie picked up his first special teams tackle of the season. It’s possible he never appreciated a tackle more than he did that one.

“That was a very good feeling,” he said. “Tackles are few and far between. I relish the moment when I do get one. After playing for so many years, I realized how much fun it truly is. Not being out there to help my team was really, really tough. To be able to get past that rehab and play again is a great, great feeling.”

DeOssie was actually hurt in a Week 3 victory over Washington. He played nine more games before he could no longer continue.

“I fell on it during a Thursday night game against the Redskins,” DeOssie said. “I jammed it and then a week later in Thursday’s practice, I went to grab someone and I felt a pop in my wrist. I just ignored it, thought it was a broken bone or something I could fix after the season. It was painful. I was able to snap, but I didn’t know it was a ripped tendon. When my hand started falling off 10 weeks later, they told me I wouldn’t be able to snap or throw or golf ever again, it was time to get it fixed before the ligament was inoperable.”

The surgery repaired DeOssie’s scapholunate ligament, which ensures the bones move in unison and the wrist has a smooth rotation. When it is torn, the result is a loss of grip strength.

DeOssie had seen dozens of players endure challenging and sometimes painful rehabs. For the first time, he became one of those players.

“It was weird at first,” he said. “I sort of felt sorry for myself for a quick minute. But then I reminded myself that I am lucky to have played this long. I have the best doctors in the world taking care of me and it was my turn. It was finally my turn. I dodged a lot of bullets over the years and I couldn’t dodge this one.”


The challenge of returning to full strength post-surgery was greater than playing pain prior to the operation.

“The first three months I couldn’t do anything,” DeOssie said. “I had pins in my hand and the doctor said I couldn’t do a thing. It was the worst. Once we got back, I got those pins out and I just had to crank on it twice a day for four months. That’s what we did. We cranked on it, got the mobility back and thanks to the staff here and my doctors in the city, I was able to get the range of motion back and the strength.”

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Eventually, he began snapping. As noted earlier, that began poorly.

“It didn’t feel the same at all,” DeOssie said. “It was good, because it made me focus on the fundamentals. Get rid of all the bad habits and start from scratch. As weird as that is, I sort of started it new and went back to the absolute pure basics. As more range came with the wrist, I was able to get my snap back even better than it was before. Starting from scratch helped.”

The Giants had to cover themselves and retained Tyler Ott, who snapped in the 2015 season finale. Both players snapped in training camp. When DeOssie proved he was good to go, the Giants released Ott on Aug. 29.

“I’ve never been in that position before,” DeOssie said. “It was certainly different, but it was good for the both of us. We both became better snappers.”

Last week, DeOssie was voted the Giants’ special teams captain by his teammates for the sixth consecutive season. Victor Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul, Eli Manning and DeOssie are the only players remaining from the Giants team that won Super Bowl XLVI. The latter two are the lone players left from the 2007 team that won Super Bowl XLII.

DeOssie hopes to play for many more years, without any enforced absences.

“I never lost any passion, but it definitely put it in a new perspective,” DeOssie said of sitting out. “I’m just so happy to be able to come to work every day and be able to do this for a living. When I was watching from the sidelines and not being able to be a part of the team, it was tough. I don’t think I was ready to transition. Getting a new opportunity to come in here, a renewed sense of what it is to truly contribute and not watch from the sidelines, I think mentally it gets me very excited to play and very thankful that I have this opportunity.”