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Larry Donnell taking on veteran role in Tight Ends Room

Posted Jun 13, 2016

Giants.com's John Schmeelk chatted with Tight End Larry Donnell about his goals for 2016:

The Giants game last November 1 against the Saints marked the halfway point of their 2015 season. But what was the Giants’ eighth regular season game ended up being Larry
Donnell’s last. He injured his neck and was eventually placed on injured reserve and forced to miss the rest of the season.

Donnell was cleared to resume football activities earlier this year.  

“It’s an awesome feeling to be back playing football with your cleats in the ground, running around and doing what I love doing.” Donnell said. “It was a stressful process but one that needed to be done. I needed to get healthy, and I’m glad I waited to get cleared and I’m happy to be back.”

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Donnell had a breakout season in 2014 when he caught 63 passes for 623 yards and six touchdowns. Before his injury last season, his production had slowed down a bit with 29 catches for 223 yards and a pair of scores. He knows that even though he is in his fourth season, it is paramount he continues to improve.

“It never stops,” Donnell said. “As long as I’m playing this game, I want to get better. Blocking, route running, catching, just refreshing myself on all the fundamentals. I’ve been playing football for a long time now, I just want to get back out there work, continue to get better and focus on what I need to focus on to help the team win football games.”

Donnell also finds himself in an odd position as the oldest player in the tight ends meeting room. He is joined by second-year players Matt LaCosse and Will Tye along with rookies Ryan Malleck and draft pick Jerell Adams. Will Johnson is also 27, but he is a newcomer to the Giants and is still learning a new system, having signed with them earlier this offseason.

“It feels weird being the older guy in the room,” Donnell said. “They kind of pick on me, but it’s cool to help them out when they need questions answered. I get to just hang out now and be the old guy. The fun part is that they’re bringing me food, Gatorade, and carrying my helmets and pads. That’s the sweetest part.”

Donnell can relate to the rookies, as he was the one who had to perform those types of duties only a few years ago. He also knows how hard it can be for a young player to be asked to quickly learn an offense and be reliable.

“I was once in that position, I know how it can be head-spinning, but they’re great guys and we have a great room,” he said.

In Donnell’s absence last year, rookie Will Tye took advantage of his opportunity and caught 42 passes for 464 yards and three touchdowns. Donnell is embracing what will be a competition for playing time and the starting job.

“This game is about competing and that’s what we do. We love each other but we compete. We’re competitors,” he said.

Donnell was careful to mention the other guys in the tight end room, who he believes can be real assets to the team.

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“We have other guys in there, too, Will Johnson, Matt (LaCosse),” he said. “We have a great group and we’ll continue to compete to make each other better and make us a better football team.”

The rookies Adams and Malleck will also have the chance to compete for a role on the team.

The Giants often use multiple tight end formations. The offense also asks the tight end to fill a number of roles, lining up at the end of the line scrimmage, out wide off the line, in the backfield, and they are often sent in motion before the snap. Donnell thinks the group is uniquely qualified to fill the multiple roles.

“The group that we have, we are capable of being a great group to help this football team,” Donnell said. “No matter where we are on the field, we’re capable of getting the job done wherever we are.”

Wherever he is asked to line up, Donnell hopes this season will look a lot like his year in 2014.