Q: A lot of work to do?
Q: How are you feeling compared to last season? Last training camp? How is it going so far?
A: First, I didn’t have a training camp last year. But I’m feeling great. I feel like my normal self. I’m running around, getting to the quarterback, stopping the run. I’m awesome. I’m at 110% really. I’m not really worrying about the back or shoulder, nothing. All is good.
Q: I know it’s early in the process but can you comment on the chemistry on the defense with all of the new faces?
A: We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re there but we have a lot of work to do. This is the third day of training camp so we’ve got a while for us to get… we have a couple preseason games but we have a lot of work to do. We have to create that chemistry that we had.
Q: You’ve become quickly one of the veterans around here with Tuck gone. How do you pass son the knowledge that you learned from Tuck onto the younger guys that you’re working with now?
A: Really you just have to watch and see. I’m the type of person… Tuck’s always been the talker. When we’re doing something wrong he’ll come to us, which I am too. If I see a person doing something wrong and I can help him out, that’s what I’m going to do. He’s always been a verbal guy but me, personally, I’m playing on the field and they’re watching and they see, ‘OK, this is what I’m doing wrong.’ And then when we’re in the meeting rooms and I see a guy doing something wrong I’ll tell him. ‘Look, try this when you get in tomorrow and see if it works. If it doesn’t work for you, try something else.’ That’s it.
Q: The last time you were up here you said you were 100%, now you said 110. Where did the extra 10 come from?
A: My mind. I’m 110%. I’m not worried about anything. My main goal is to start the season off healthy, which I am, get some preseason games in and play some football. I feel like I’ve been out for a year.
Q: You rushed back last year so you could be on the field for the opener. Do you have any advice for Jon Beason? He seems to have that same deadline.
A: Me, personally, I wasn’t ready. But I felt like I needed to be out there because I was one of those guys that’s a factor to the team and with me being gone it’s a big difference, which it was. Honestly, all I can tell Jon is… he knows too, don’t come out there if you’re not fully healthy. We’d rather have you at 100% than 50% because, honestly, when you’re injured, you’re liable to injure something else, which I did. When you’re 100% and you’re out there ready to go, you’re not worried about this, you’re not holding back or anything. I just tell him, he knows, I know he knows. He’s not a guy that’s going to come out there until he’s healthy. That’s all I got to say.
Q: Given that you feel like last year was almost like a lost year because of the injuries and stuff, what do you think is going to come back quicker for you, the pass rushing or the run stopping? You did both so well when you were going good.
A: I think both. As long as I’ve got this training camp in, I didn’t have training camp last year. Watch film, I think I’m doing perfectly fine on both. I would say the run stopping, I mean both but if you can’t stop the run you can’t get to the passer so hopefully those guys up front, we’re all going to stop the run together and then we’ll get to the quarterback.
Q: When is the last time you felt this healthy?
A: I’d say at the end of the 2012 season. I came here for minicamp and I felt terrible and then that’s when I had to go get surgery. That was a long time. Three years ago, right? But now I’m back and ready to go. I’m ready. It is what it is. I’m not worried about any of that. Hopefully you all have the same questions next week for me.
Q: How is your strength? Is it back?
A: I’m good. I’m lifting, upper body strength… I’m actually stronger than I used to be. Lower body I’m fine. You just have to keep going, keep pushing.
Q: Three years ago you kind of…?
A: You always have the same question. Always.
Q: You were pretty much relying on your natural ability. Do you feel like it will be better this year now that you’ve had…?
A: Honestly answer, there’s a mental part of the game that I focus on but me personally, it’s not natural ability anymore for me. It’s more mental. I’m in the meeting rooms more often. I teach some of the guys stuff that I’ve learned. As a rookie, I tell them straight up, ‘Just do what you can to help us out.’ But at the same time learn, learn the system, learn where you’ve got to line up. Me personally, I’m going to be out there running full speed and chasing down running backs and chasing down quarterbacks. That’s what I do best. I feel like when you think you you’re not… The less thinking you do the better you play.
Q: You were looking to lose some weight coming into the season, what went into that? Was it because of the back?
A: I’m going to put it like this – I don’t think my weight was an issue. I lost the weight just to lose the weight. The year we won the Super Bowl I was 285 and I was running like a lion. My weight wasn’t really the issue. I lost the weight just because it’s better. I’m getting older so… that’s it.
Q: Is the future beyond this year at all on your mind as you start the season? The contract situation?
A: I’m not going to lie, seeing Tuck gone is on my mind a little bit but at the end of the day I don’t worry about it. When I’m on that field, family matters or whatever, off-the-field issues, I’m not worried about it. When I’m on the field it’s all about my brothers and what I do best. Off the field, when you go home or whatever that’s when you think about that stuff. Honestly when I’m on the field I’m just out there playing football and doing my job.
Q: When you think about it do you think, ‘I’ve got to show them something?’
A: No. I always thought that I was going to be here next year because I know how I play and I know what kind of game I bring when I’m on the field. I’m pretty sure everybody here knows it too.
Q: Is it still a little strange though? Tuck’s gone, Osi’s gone.
A: Not really. Guys leave and come. Every year there’s somebody new coming to the team and that’s with every team around the league. You can’t worry about that. Tuck’s gone, he’s a big part of the defense and was a leader but he’s gone so now people have to step up. Me too. Antrel, Beason and then you have Kiwi on the other side. I think Kiwi is going to be a big factor this year and I truly believe that. At the end of the day we’ve got it, we’re going to step up big time. He knows what he has to do and I know what I’ve got to do.
Q: What makes you think that Kiwi is going to be a big factor?
A: I just know. I just know my players.
Q: This is his first time where he’s come into camp and is the starter…
A: Yeah. We’re moving guys around a lot. You don’t really know what your position’s going to be. Now he’s more focused on the end. He knows he’s a starter and he’s got to step up to the plate.
Q: How does he complement you?
A: I don’t know. I don’t need compliments. I’m just doing my job.
Q: How about your relationship with Strahan? There was a lot of talk a couple years ago…
A: We still talk. I text him once in a while. He teaches me some things and maybe I could teach him some things. We still talk.
Q: What does it mean for you…
A: It’s a lot like, he taught… Osi came in and he taught Osi. Osi taught Tuck and Tuck taught me. That’s a pattern. Maybe I’ll teach some of these kids.
Q: Will Beatty was talking about…
A: Who? Oh, I’m looking forward to dominating Will Beatty, to kill him. Don’t get me wrong, Will Beatty is a terrific guy, on the field he’s a great guy. He’s one of the best tackles we’ve got and he’s hurt right now. Well he’s not hurt but he’s rehabbing still. I think he’s doing a great job. I’ve been going against him lately and I’m pretty sure he’s out there, probably not at his best. I’m not going to lie, he’s been giving me a fight and I love that about him because the more I fight with him, the more he fights with me, the better I get. I would never take a break on Will Beatty. I tell him straight up on the field, ‘Look, I’m coming at you.’ I don’t care if you tell me, ‘Oh, it’s a cut play.’ I don’t care, I’m still coming. Knowing me at timed we fight but when we’re in the locker room after practice he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I got you on this one,’ and I’ll be like, ‘No you didn’t. Let’s watch the film.’ He’s a cool guy and I love him. I’m glad he’s back out there with us. He’s a big factor in our offense and we need him. Trust me, we need him.
Q: Are you excited for your first camp with the Giants?
A: Yeah, I’m thrilled. We’re getting off to a good start. I’m still messing with gelling inside this offense. We’re getting all the players out so it’s been a good start.
Q: What do you think about going in as the starter? It’s kind of a different role for you.
A: I think that I’m not going in any differently. To be able to say that is really doing an injustice to the position that I’ve always had. I’ve always approached the game as I am a starter. The mental reps, the physical reps, taking care of my body on and off the field – all those apply. As a football player, I can’t imagine you stepping out on the field and not caring.
Q: What do you like about the no-huddle, hurry-up offense? It seems like it’s pretty quick pace.
A: Yeah, it keeps defenses on their toes. [Coach Ben] McAdoo has a way to keep the defense on their toes, put pressure on them, get the long shots, get the grinding yards. It’s a lot of different ways to attack a defense. Also, it puts a lot of ownership on the players to learn the playbook. It puts the capability in the quarterback’s hands to make decisions.
Q: How are you guys able to communicate? Is it a verbal communication?
A: We have many ways to communicate. Some is verbal, hand signals, things of that nature. Also, being a student of the game, you can understand down and distance and the tendencies of what we want to accomplish so it becomes second nature.
Q: Do you guys have a goal of how many plays, or seconds between plays, or anything like that?
A: We don’t really have the number for the exact plays but it’s just a hurry-up offense. It’s always about tempo.
Q: Is that the fastest you’ve ever played?
A: Is this the fastest offense I’ve ever played? Yeah, the tempo is upbeat. It comes down to taking development from the inside of the classroom and putting it on the field. It is fast-paced but we have the guys and the personnel to get it done.
Q: So it doesn’t feel fast to you mentally?
A: No, as you progress as an athlete, your mental [ability] continues to grow, so the game slows down. It’s like looking at a ceiling fan and watching that one fan; you can actually slow it down. So studying –inside and out- my playbook, the game becomes second nature.
Q: How much of the offense is no-huddle? Is it significantly more than you’re used to seeing?
A: We have the capability of running our entire offense through no-huddle. It’s just a matter of how much we feel we need to use it per game, or how the offensive coordinator feels we need to run it.
Q: What did last season do for you confidence-wise?
A: Last year, nothing. I play this game because I love this game. I constantly want to continue to develop and the things that I want to prove are really not to … people. It’s the little kid in me that wants to be the best. So here’s my opportunity to have a chosen profession and be my best at it.
Q: With that drive that you have, do you understand why David Wilson would want to come back and play? Neck surgery is dangerous; there’s some risk involved. For an outsider, it’s easy to say …..
A: He [David Wilson] is a competitor. He wants to play ball. You can see that. Getting to know him has confirmed that. For him to come back on the field and to be able to put his best foot forward, learn the playbook inside-out, and compete – he’s a competitor, he can’t help himself but to compete. There’s no doubt that as soon as he got cleared he was going to be out here running.
Q: Do you think it’s easy for him to put the risk out of his mind and play?
A: I can’t speak for another man, but I will say that with playing football we all know the risks involved. Plain. Period. This isn’t a sport that you can say is roses. So again, going back to his competitive nature, there was no doubt that he was going to be playing.
Q: What you said before - the idea of proving yourself to other people – what do you still have to prove to yourself? Do you go into this season looking to prove something to yourself?
A: Since I’ve entered the league, it’s been to prove that I’m a complete back. That’s being able to catch the ball out of the backfield, being able to protect the quarterback, being able to hold onto the football. Third and short: can make the play. Fourth and goal: can make the play. Third and long: can make the play. Never having to come off the field. That’s something, entering the league, that I’ve always wanted to put my name on. So many times as a running back you get labeled. You get labeled a power back. You hear guys get labeled a receiver. You hear guys get labeled as a speedster. I want to be known as a complete back.
Q: Of all those qualities, are there those that you feel that you’ve already shown and those that you still feel like you need to show?
A: I’ve shown spurts of them all, but I have not done enough to satisfy where I want to be.
Q: How excited are you for this opportunity here? Coming back east, having this chance to show all those things you talked about?
A: You asked…?
Q: Yeah how excited are you for this opportunity you have here?
A: Oh it’s great! Every time you put on the pads, you have an opportunity. Every time you step on the field you have an opportunity. But playing here in New York, playing with the Giants, this franchise, under the leadership of Tom Coughlin, great ownership, I’m thrilled to be here and carry on that legacy and tradition.
Q: The foot injury, I know you gained some weight and everything, you’ve lost weight, you’re in shape now, how are you feeling coming into this camp?
A: I feel good, I feel lighter, I’ve been running a lot better, so I feel good.
Q: Did you get back down to the speed coming out of college at the combine?
A: Yeah, I’m back down and I can run for a lot longer, so now it’s just down to getting into that football shape and I’ll be ready.
Q: Last season when you gained the weight, was that a matter of frustration or the inability to practice?
A: I wasn’t able to practice, I wasn’t able to run, I wasn’t able to do cardio things, so that’s what led to me gaining the weight.
Q: When did you start the process of getting back into football shape?
A: As soon as I came back, but a lot in the offseason too, just working out all off-season because I knew I had a big year coming up so I wanted to be ready.
Q: When the offense changed, and Ben McAdoo came in I know there was an expanded role for a pass-catching tight end there, did you look as that as a big opportunity maybe for you?
A: Yeah, I definitely look at that as an opportunity because I had known a lot about Jermichael Finley and so I’ve watched the Packers play and I was excited to know that we had that offense coming in.
Q: So you’ve watched a lot of Finley, do you ever compare yourself to him or any of the other big pass-catching tight ends?
A: Oh no, not compare myself, more so just watching to learn and watch the plays and his offense to know what he wants, and stuff like that, but I’m definitely excited about it.
Q: When you watch Packers films from last year and the year before, what excited you about it?
A: I think, just the situations that they were put in, being lined up wider and in the slot, just different plays that they would do.
Q: How different is it from what you were doing the past two years here?
A: It’s completely different. I like this one.
Q: What’s different about it, the lining up in different places?
A: Oh yeah, and the different routes, the moving around a lot more, you see a lot more opportunities to catch the ball.
Q: How big was the learning curve adjusting?
A: Not big at all, it’s my third year so I kind of know how things work. I was able to pick it up pretty quick.
Q: Do you look at the career arc of someone like Julian Thomas, and do you think that could happen with someone like you?
A: I don’t know, time will tell. I know I can produce, that’s why I’ve been here, people wonder why I’ve stayed around and there’s a reason I’m here so I’m just ready to go out there and show everyone why.
Q: You said, “There’s a reason I’m around, The reason is, they want to keep you around.
A: Yeah I feel like they believe in me, and I believe in myself, so this’ll be the time to prove it.
Q: Do you feel like the time is ticking on that?
A: The time is now, yeah.
Q: Does having an extra pre-season game, and having this extra time help – especially a guy like you coming back from injuries?
A: Yeah, I think it helps me and it helps everyone – the whole team. We get an extra game and an extra week of practice, so I’m definitely going to use that to my advantage.
Q: You guys are running a lot of no-huddle this year, is that even something you ran at Cincinnati a lot?
A: We did run no-huddle a lot, yeah.
Q: Is there a similarity between this and that or is there a difference in the terminology?
A: Everything is completely different. In college everything’s pretty basic, but now there’s a lot of calls and checks and audibles, so you have to know more.
Q: You were more of a blocker coming out of college, as I recall, does the idea of having a big, expanded role in the receiving game excite you a lot?
A: Yeah, it excites me, but blocking in college, I feel that’s helped me a lot because I’ll be able to hopefully transition it into these games.
Q: Of course that’s still a major emphasis around here, it’s not like you’re going to be running up the seam 45 times a game.
A: Yeah exactly, so that’s definitely a big part, so I feel like that’s to my advantage a little bit and that’s been my whole career actually.
Q: How do you feel like your chemistry has been with Eli since the installation of the new offense?
A: We’ve been good, I think it’s been going pretty well.
Q: Overall, you feel like the tight end group is a good bunch of guys for getting on target and what do you feel like your role is going to be?
A: We’ll have to wait and see, but I want to be the starter.
Q: How is the defense looking thus far?
A: I think it’s good. The biggest thing has been the new CBA; we haven’t had as many practices early on, so we just have to take our reps in terms of jog through and getting everybody reps to perfect things. As far as getting all the pieces together, so far I’ve seen good things.
Q: For some of the younger guys do you think fewer practices hurt?
A: In terms of just getting in football shape, that’s where it kind of hinders you a little bit. We do a lot of things in the classroom; we do a lot of things like jogging through. We’re still allowed to do a lot in terms of getting your mental preparation ready. It’s not the old grind where you went out there and just beat up on each other and made sure everybody was ready to go. From that standpoint I think the preseason games will be a lot more important but in terms of everyone knowing what to do, we’re fine.
Q: Are you still taking any linebacker reps at all?
A: It’s always there but this linebacking group right now has it all taken care of. They can rush, they can cover, and they can do it all. It’s easy for me to just go out there and focus on rushing the passer.
Q: How much of an extra leadership role do you have to take to indicate to the newcomers what the Giants way is about?
A: I think just being in these halls for a long time you get the urge, get the sense and everybody that comes in, the longer they stay, the more they understand it. Having a lot of new guys around here adds an increased role I have to play in terms of letting people know about the history. It’s not just a mystique thing from the outside. It’s a true way we approach the game and life, myself and a lot of other guys who have been here have taken the lead and just going out there and showing people how to work. The majority of the guys we brought in here, I’d say like 99%, they’re workers. They understand how to play the game. They did a good job of bringing in pieces and good quality guys also.
Q: You’re close to being the last man standing, two super bowls, but you’re close…..
A: I mean that’s in the past. Right now we are going to look forward. I’m not the last one standing, there are still guys around the league who were here for both of those. There are guys who have played and are continuing to play so that’s not the end of the line for any of us. It’s a little bittersweet, those are great times we shared with a lot of great players but the positive thing is still here, we still have another chance to do it here in New York and that’s what I am looking forward to.
Q: Can you appreciate what it takes to go back after having a procedure like that done since you went through something similar with David Wilson, because you know that’s a very scary procedure to have done?
A: It’s tough, and you can see it when he’s on the field and he’s hungry. He wants to get back out there. He is prepared to give it his all, and I remember being in his position because you’re sitting in this weight room here and all you want to do is to be able to get out on that field and when you finally get that chance you go full speed every single rep and he’s listening and being attentive and he’s doing every single thing he can do to get back in there. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be the exact same player he was before he went down.
Q: What’s it like before you get to that first hit, he hasn’t done that yet. What goes through your head when you’re in that sort of situation?
A: It’s a challenge; I think any player can tell you the same thing, when you’re coming back from an injury, no matter where it is on your body, you tend to favor it. You don’t know how it’s going to react, you’re not sure exactly. You can say all the right things, and you can do all the right things, but until you go out there and actually put someone else on their back, you’re not 100% sure. For him, I think he’s just trying to get ready and trying to get back in there. When he finally gets in there, I think we’ll see that he’s ready. He’s probably farther ahead himself, than even he thinks he is.
Q: From the outside it’s easy to look at it and say, “It’s your neck, are you crazy, why would you risk it,” but you went through it, what is it inside of him – inside of you – that says, “You know what, I’m going to take this risk and play?”
A: This is a great opportunity that only comes once in your life. You never know how long you’re going to be able to play this game; you never know how long you’re going to be able
A: …The first day I think we started off a little slower, speaking for the receivers-wise. Wasn’t enough energy going out in our group. The next day we tried to come out and make a few more plays and have energy in and out the huddle to prove to coach we were ready to go. There’s been adjustments made and we just have to progress each and every day.
Q: What do you like about the no-huddle that you guys run in practice?
A: It gives us time to get set and see what the defense is going to do, to keep them out of position. Switching in our personnel to take advantage of the personnel they have out there. Hopefully, they’re in regular and we’re in 3-Wide so we can spread the ball out a little bit and use our speed to make a few plays.
Q: Is this the fastest tempo you’ve played since coming here?
A: Yes, most definitely. Besides being in two-minute, starting out at the beginning of practice instead at the end of practice.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge in keeping up with that tempo?
A: We have to make sure we’re conditioned to keep us up-tempo offensively so we can get the ball snapped. Keep the defense out of position.
Q: Communication is not a problem?
A: No, communication is not a problem. I think we’re all on the same page as far as knowing what we have to do and knowing the concept that’s going to be run. That’s one of the things we’ve worked ourselves [to avoid].
Q: You talked about the fast pace and that’s designed to keep the defense off-balance. What has been the challenge for you guys as far as getting it going?
A: The key is being on the same page and communicating. Understanding what we need to do and the confidence in moving at that fast pace. So we have to communicate with coach on our down time to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to do to be successful.
Q: Is it fair to say you have less decisions to make when you run your route?
A: Yes, I guess you can say that. There’s still an adjustment that you’re going to have to make in this offense but not as much as we usually had to do in the past.
Q: How helpful do you think that can be?
A: Very helpful. I think it’s going to allow all of us, as far as tight ends and receivers, to go out there and play a lot faster and use out abilities.
Q: Specifically last year, interceptions have a lot of stories. Do you have a number of some that were miscommunications with Eli [Manning]?
A: At least a majority of them. Maybe some of them were from not being competitive or getting open, as far as me. I would say at least 80% of them were from miscommunications and not being on the same page.
Q: How many of those [interceptions] could be decreased by this new operation?
A: I think all of them can. That’s going to be the key for us this season in creating those turnovers into touchdowns. I have to say I’m a lot more confident. Doing what I have to do and knowing what the coaches are looking for out of me…
Q: Do you feel you have something to prove or show?
A: Always. There’s always something to prove. Whether it may be….
Q: Are there certain things you need to do this year better or stuff you’ve worked on?
A: Yes. Going out there and creating a lot more separation. Keeping my body language positive so Eli will know what I’m going to do…Just running out there fast and making plays.
Q: The perception of this offense is that more of the big plays will come from the yardage after the catch rather than big plays down the field. How much of that is true and do you expect it to be more upon the receiver to make those plays?
A: That was pretty much the concept over the past few days at least. I don’t think we have to throw it deep much. It’s going to be upon us to create the separation, make the catch, and a few guys miss.
Q: Is it easier for you as a receiver to get the separation early to make the bigger play or is it more incumbent upon you to make a move and get away?
A: I think it’s going to come natural to the receivers. With the abilities we have, we have to make some guys miss. At the beginning of the route we have to create separation and get the ball in our hands. After that, I think the receivers can take care of that.
Q: With the new style of offense, they brought in some new receivers with Mario [Manningham] and Odell [Beckham Jr]. Does it look bad as the competition with the different style of receiving or who’s going to get those spots in the receiving core?
A: No. I think all of us are trying to help each other out with the new offense. We are all learning right now. We want to make sure everyone is having…as possible to be successful in this offense. We don’t try to bring each other down because we need each other to make sure we’re all on the same level to compete.
Q: You talked about creating separation with an offense that operates faster and closer to the line of scrimmage. That’s not always possible. Does your size give you an advantage when the separation isn’t possible?
A: Sometimes you’re not going to get that separation you want. Not only my size, but any of the receivers that are big. That’s something we talked about was creating separation with our arms when there’s tight coverage.
Q: Is that something you worked on using your size to shield the defender?
A: Yes, especially using my basketball frame to go up and getting the ball.