EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In spite of an unprecedented offseason, which included the shutdown of the Giants' home offices and practice facility – the Quest Diagnostics Training Center – general manager Dave Gettleman has continued to re-shape not only the 90-man roster but also the team's football operations staff.
Gettleman's non-roster moves have included the addition of several newcomers as well as expanded responsibilities for some who have been with the organization.
"This has been a difficult several months for everybody, not just for those of us in sport," said Gettleman. "As unusual as these times have been, we need to continue to be progressive so the New York Giants can ultimately be what we and our fans envision. We are very excited about what we have been able to accomplish. With these changes and additions, we continue to position ourselves for the future."
Dr. Lani Lawrence fills a newly-created position, director of wellness and clinical services, as well as overseeing the team's player engagement/development program; Ed Triggs, formerly the football operations coordinator, is now the director of football operations; Ty Siam is director of football data & innovation; Courtney Kennedy is the football data analyst; Marquis Pendleton is now an area scout after spending the previous four years as the team's scout in the BLESTO scouting combine; Blaise Bell is the new BLESTO scout; Hannah Burnett is the new Midlands scout; Craig Fitzgerald is the director of strength and performance; Sam Coad is performance manager/assistant strength coach; and Nick Williams will serve as an offensive assistant on the coaching staff.
*Lawrence was previously a clinical and sport psychologist at the University of Southern California while simultaneously serving as a member of the USA Track & Field sport psychology group. "It was really challenging to manage both positions," she said. "I realized the type of work that I wanted to do was more aligned with the professional work I was doing than track and field."
She spoke to a couple of NBA teams before she received a call about an opportunity with the Giants.
"I couldn't think of a better team for me to try to pursue, honestly," Lawrence said. "I'm originally from the east coast. My dad is a lifelong Giants fan, even though I grew up in Massachusetts (where her 942 rebounds and 129 blocked shots are both the second-highest totals in Northeastern University women's basketball history)."
Lawrence has assumed the duties of the director of player engagement/development, a position manned by David Tyree the previous six years and another former player, Charles Way, before that. The re-structured program led by Lawrence consists of assistant director Ashley Lynn, outside linebackers coach and senior assistant Bret Bielema, special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey with assistance from Jessie Armstead, the former five-time Pro Bowl linebacker who worked closely with Way and Tyree. The player engagement/development area is under the umbrella of senior vice president of medical services Ronnie Barnes, who has been on the Giants' staff since 1976.
Lawrence said "player engagement" is her most important job function.
"And when I say player engagement, I literally mean engaging with our players, which is really hard with everything that's currently going on in the country – the virtual learning, with our athletes not being able to come to the facility," she said. "What I was tasked to do was to make our rookies better. But also to make the players better. I'm fortunate that everybody within the organization has those same goals, from ownership to the head coach to the people that I work with in player development.
"My primary role is to not only be a support, but to help players be a better person in general. A whole person, not just a better athlete. If they're better in their personal lives, if they have better connections with their teammates, with their spouses or people close to them, if they're living healthy lives, ultimately, the reward is that they're going to be a better athlete. I get to support the players emotionally, physically and mentally, and my hope is that it translates onto the field."
Lawrence – who was born in Manhattan's Mt. Sinai Hospital - is thrilled to be back on the east coast and working for the Giants.
"It's like me being a fish that was out of water being placed back in," she said. "I honestly can't think of any other place I'd rather be, the organization and placement in the country."
View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.
*Triggs first joined the organization as a video department intern in 2002. The following year, the graduate of William Patterson University became a fulltime assistant. In 2013, he switched roles and became the football operations/project coordinator. He was promoted to football operations coordinator in 2016. Triggs is responsible for managing the salary cap, assisting in contract negotiations, CBA compliance and working with the pro scouting, college scouting, coaching, and the data and innovation staffs.
*Siam grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas, and has bachelor's and master's degrees from Cornell University. He joined the organization as an intern in 2015 and became a fulltime staffer the following year. Siam's group includes Jon Berger, the senior director of football information; the previously autonomous football video department (Dave Maltese, Carmen Pizzano and Stephen Venditti); Ben Burress, the football data & innovation/research assistant; and Kennedy, the football data analyst.
"Football, from a technological perspective, has been moving at a rapid pace to build a data fluidity that can be utilized across multiple groups," Siam said. "For us, that's our college and pro scouts, our coaching staff, it's our strength and conditioning staff and our medical and performance teams. We had gotten to a point where we had such a vast amount of data internally and a number of different audiences were looking at it from various points of view. We thought it was really important to centralize the way we distribute information to all of those groups. That was really the big impetus.
"From a video and data standpoint, how do we get the most meaningful information in front of our decision makers on a regular basis? Sometimes it's low-hanging fruit, sometimes it's much more complex with some of the analysis and modeling we're doing. But if we can effectively get the most appropriate information in front of our decision makers on a regular basis, then I think that's how we'll earmark success in this category."
*Kennedy, 23, took a unique path to the NFL. She graduated from Duke in 2019 with a degree in economics. Prior to that, Kennedy trained pre-professionally in ballet.
"I was dancing 25 hours a week," she said. "That's my passion. I'll always love ballet. I try to get into the city and see the New York City Ballet perform as much as I can, but I never really wanted to go pro in that. I really wanted to go to a good school and have a normal type-ish job. Not sure how normal this is, but I never really had the desire to be a professional dancer."
What she really wanted to do was work in sports. In college, Kennedy had internships with the Tampa Bay Rays and the NBA. She spent the entire 2019 season as the Giants' data analytics intern and will now use her skills as a fulltime employee.
"I've been helping all different football departments," Kennedy said. "Anything from scouting to the medical team to coaching, a variety of database statistical projects. Something I think that makes the organization great is you really get to work with a lot of different people. Everyone really comes together to help the team function and help the organization run smoothly. I'm excited to just continue to get to work on those types of things in my new role."
*Pendleton first worked with the Giants as a public relations intern in training camp in 2014. The following year, he was a full-season pro personnel intern. In 2016, he became the Giants' scout in BLESTO, an eight-team consortium. The Giants' representative in the combine is responsible for scouting the southwest (Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas).
As the Giants' northeast area scout, Pendleton will return to his native New Jersey after living in Houston for four years.
"I'm excited. It's a new challenge for me," Pendleton said. "It gives me an opportunity to grow within a different area, see different players, meet different people within the industry and different coaches. Being in the northeast is also great because I'm from the northeast. I get the chance to work with a lot of people that I used to work with in college (UMass) and are spread across the northeast as well. It gives me a new opportunity and a chance to have a fresh look at things going forward."
*Bell was a pro personnel intern with the Giants last year. By replacing Pendleton in Houston, Bell is returning to his hometown.
Just 23, Bell is grateful to get his foot in the door to the NFL.
"It's definitely a blessing," said Bell, who was a two-time All-Patriot League wide receiver at Holy Cross. "It's something I take tremendous pride in and I'm extremely grateful for, because I know that it's not every day you see someone at my age in a position like this already. I'm really looking forward to it and just extremely grateful for this opportunity, to the Giants organization. It's been great. My time with the Giants has been absolutely wonderful and I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's just a feeling of gratefulness, pride and humility."
*The Giants' newest college scout brings to the job many of the same traits and experiences as a long line of predecessors: an impressive athletic career, fierce competitiveness, an eye for talent and a lifelong love of football. Unlike those before her, Burnett is the franchise's first fulltime female scout.
The Giants have a proud and storied history. In Burnett, they have found someone who not only breaks new ground but is committed to their longstanding values.
"The only thing I care about is for us to win the Super Bowl," said Burnett, who spent the previous 19 months in the Atlanta Falcons' scouting department. "Our main goal as a team is to win a Super Bowl. That's my goal, that's everybody's goal."
Burnett, 25, has trained for her new job – formally and informally – as far back as her memory stretches. She was a standout lacrosse, soccer and basketball player at Huntington High School on Long Island. Burnett elevated her lacrosse game at the University of Massachusetts, where she was a team captain, a two-time all-region and all-conference player and three-time conference champion. She holds the UMass record for points in a game with 10.
"I played sports forever, ever since I can remember," Burnett said. "To be able to be part of a team again that's working toward one common goal is what I've been doing my whole life. I've always been a part of a team. It's helped me transition into the NFL. When I got to UMass and majored in sports management, I knew I wanted to work in sports in some capacity."
Burnett first did that as an events operation intern in the Buffalo Bills' training camp the summer before her senior year in 2017. After graduation, she did a four-month stint as a player personnel assistant in the NFL office. Burnett was hired by the Falcons in November 2018 and was given numerous responsibilities, including working as the liaison between the Falcons, players, agents, and schools to schedule workouts, watching college tape and attending pro days, bowl games and the NFL Combine.
During the interview process with the Giants, Burnett met on Zoom with vice president of football operations and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams, director of college scouting Chris Pettit, and assistant director of player personnel Tim McDonnell. The next day, Burnett spoke with general manager Dave Gettleman, who quickly decided to hire her.
Though she will be the first woman to ever scout for the Giants, Burnett doesn't see herself a trailblazer or groundbreaker.
"I try not to think about that," she said. "I completely understand and am aware that this is an awesome opportunity, and it's important for females in the league. But I've said this from the get-go, I just want to be the best area scout that I can. I want to go in there like everyone else goes in there and go about my business like a pro. Everything else will work itself out if I go about my business the right way. For me, that's my mindset. It's always been my mindset. I'm just continuing to stay on that course."
*Fitzgerald joined the Giants after a two-year stint at the University of Tennessee, where he was the director of football sports performance. He previously worked in the NFL as the Houston Texans' strength and conditioning coach from 2014-17. Fitzgerald has also been a strength coach at Catholic University, Arizona State, Maryland, Harvard, South Carolina and Penn State.
But this spring, of course, was the first time he led a conditioning program while working remotely.
"It's been really positive," Fitzgerald said. "It's voluntary. The players have to reach out to you, and in this case, they have. They've been really good about that. Equipment questions and training questions, that's really fun for me and the strength staff, just them reaching out, 'Hey Coach Fitz, I was thinking about this type of run and getting ready for the season. I'm trying to put on some weight this year.' That was actually really fun getting to know them that way. I talked to everybody at some point or another."
How does he gauge the progress of players he's never met in person?
"When you're talking to them, you're asking them how they're doing," Fitzgerald said. "You really don't have to ask a lot of questions, to be honest with you. They're telling you, 'Hey, I wanted to be up to this weight this year, I wanted to get down to this weight,' and they just wanted the best way to do it. As you're talking to them, you get a chance to gauge, 'Hey, this guy is working really hard, he'll be ready.' From talking to them, these guys are eager to get in here and get working. They're preparing."
View photos of every roster addition made by the Giants this offseason.
*Coad traveled the longest road to join the Giants. He grew up in Katherine, a town of about 10,000 people in Australia's northern territory. As a youngster, Coad played rugby and cricket -- "two very common Australian sports," he said, -- but became an NFL fan by watching ESPN.
Coad and Aaron Wellman, Fitzgerald's predecessor as the head of the Giants' conditioning program, became friends when they were in the same PhD program at the Bond University in Queensland, Australia. That connection helped Coad get his first job in America, in 2014 at the University of Michigan (where he met his wife, Christie-Lee, an athletic trainer). Coad also spent three seasons at the University of Oklahoma and two at Texas A&M before joining the Giants.
"I had envisioned maybe one day trying to work in the NFL, but I really loved working with collegiate athletes," Coad said. "I wasn't necessarily sure if it was what I wanted to do long-term. When I interviewed with the Giants, I got a very good feeling about the organization, a really good feeling about the people in the building and what they're all about and trying to achieve with the coaching staff and with everything going on. Just something about that on the interview really struck me. When I went back and was thinking about it, it kind of seemed like a no-brainer. When I got to the end of it, it just felt right from that perspective."
Coad long ago cleared one of his highest hurdles.
"When I first got here, my accent was a hell of a lot thicker and I don't think (the players) could understand me as well," he said. "When I moved to Oklahoma, I realized that I had to slow down how I was talking. I picked up a little bit of a southern tinge to my accent. Over time, as with anything, athletes in particular, once people understand what your interests are, helping them become the best versions of themselves, they'll joke around with you about stuff. But it's like any other coach, I think they respond to people who have their best interest at heart and want them to do the very best that they can possibly do. It is a good little joking point. Everybody likes to have a little fun with it and just ask some questions about the wildlife and everything over in Australia, and some of the conceptions they have about Australia."
*Williams comes to the Giants following a three-year stint as the wide receivers coach at Southern Illinois. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in business management in 2012, he began his coaching career as a volunteer offensive analyst under Nick Saban.
Williams spent the 2013 season as the offensive graduate assistant at Valdosta State. He was the wide receivers coach at Jacksonville (Alabama) State from 2014-16, when the Gamecocks went 23-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference. In 2015, JSU spent 11 weeks at ranked No. 1 in the nation in the FCS and lost the national championship game. Williams moved to SIU in 2017.
Williams earned a spot on the Alabama football team as a walk-on and contributed as a wide receiver and on special teams. He helped the Crimson Tide win national championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Alabama was 49-5 and won two SEC titles during his playing career.
Williams' father, Bobby Williams, is a longtime coach who served as Alabama's tight ends and special teams coordinator when Nick played at Alabama. From 2000-02, Bobby Williams was head coach at Michigan State (succeeding Saban) and when he was the Miami Dolphins' running backs coach under Saban in 2005-06, he worked with Giants coaches Jason Garrett and Derek Dooley. Bobby Williams is currently the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at the University of Oregon.