Jon Halapio has kept his edge all summer by competing as if he were not the starting center. On Sunday, the Giants traded away Brett Jones, Halapio's main competition and best friend, and that won't change his approach.
"It still doesn't cross my mind," Halapio said about being in line to start the season opener vs. Jacksonville. "I'm still competing like I'm not the starter. I'm just going to keep approaching it that way until Week 1 and focus on trying to get everyone on the same page and get this running game going. Just try to improve one day at a time."
Kevin Abrams, the Giants' vice president of football operations and assistant general manager, pulled Jones aside as Sunday's practice got underway at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The move the front office had just made sent Jones to the Minnesota Vikings, coach Pat Shurmur's former team, in exchange for a 2019 draft choice.
"I think the trade was good for both (Minnesota and us)," Shurmur said. "We got a pick in return for Brett Jones. He's one of my favorite guys and he's going to a really good place. With their situation in the offensive line, he's going to have a chance to compete to maybe be their starter. I'm pretty familiar with their situation and he's going to a very good place, so I'm happy for him, because he's a real likeable guy. He works hard, he's tough, and I feel like if he can't be here – I tell the players all the time, we want you all to be here; if you can't be here, we want you to be somewhere good, and that's a good place."
Like Halapio, Jones has come a long way in his NFL journey. The former All-Star from the Canadian Football League was just looking to get his foot in the door with the Giants in 2015, and he leaves with 30 games of experience with 14 starts, including 12 at center last season. He clearly left an impression on incoming general manager Dave Gettleman, who re-signed the restricted free agent in April while rebuilding an offensive line that has new starters at all five positions. Jones and Halapio began the spring competing for the job, with Halapio eventually earning the majority of first-team reps by the time training camp rolled around.
"I'm happy for him," Halapio said. "It sucks to see my friend go. That's the tough part about this business, you build relationships like this, but you know that sometimes it doesn't go that way for us to be together forever. It's not a marriage. I'm happy for him, it's closer to home for him and he gets an opportunity to go out there and play and display his talents and what he brings to the game. He's a good player."
Halapio, meanwhile, is originally a sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2014. He bounced around from New England to Denver, to Arizona, to the Fall Experimental Football League, back to New England, and then to the Giants. He never played in an NFL game until last season, when he appeared 10 times, including the final six weeks starting at right guard. Gettleman also saw enough of him to re-sign the Florida native and former Gator in March.
"I would like to think that I am improving every day," Halapio said. "I would like to think that I'm ascending as a player. Ultimately, that's a better question for coach Shurmur. I'm just trying to control what I can control and that's trying to be on the same page as the other four offensive linemen."
As a result of the move, veteran John Greco's role increases as a backup on the interior offensive line. Greco, who has 117 games with 70 starts under his belt, was signed in the middle of last season. He has extensive starting experience at both guard positions in addition to center.
"Yeah, you want to have centers in the building," said Shurmur, a former starting center in college. "We do have other guys that can play center in a backup role."