EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dave Gettleman has lost his hair, but not his fighting spirit, work ethic, or sense of humor.
The Giants' feisty 67-year-old general manager today addressed the media for the first time since announcing on June 5 that he had lymphoma. Gettleman has since undergone four of a scheduled seven rounds of chemotherapy, treatment that has robbed him of what was a full head of hair. But his personality is certainly intact.
"Being bald is different," Gettleman said. "It's weird now, getting up in the morning with that head of hair, looking in that face, woof. I'm surprised my wife hasn't left, because I want to. Anyhow, I'm only kidding. It is kind of neat, when you think about it. Let me tell you something, (defensive line coach) Gary Emanuel said to me, 'Dave, think about it. You can wash your face and your head at the same time.' I said, 'That ain't bad.' Right now, I can shave with a tongue depressor. It's pretty funny. I shave just so I can put after-shave on. But anyhow, that's my shtick today."
Well, not completely. He did say that, "The Lord has a plan and for some reason, I wasn't supposed to get to Cape Cod this summer." And because he must stay out of the sun and his immune system isn't at full strength, Gettleman must stay far from the practice field. "(Today) I was in Peru, watching practice in Hackensack," he said. "I was looking at the backs of jerseys. I was thinking, 'Wow, he's a big guy.'
"It's killing me because you have to watch practice from eight million yards away and I can't get to the locker room, which is frustrating. I've got to eat upstairs at my desk which is frustrating. But I looked at them and said, 'Guys, I'm sorry, you're stuck with me.' So, you know, it's been good."
Gettleman was also candid and serious talking about his cancer. He was told by Dr. Andre Goy, his oncologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, that he is in complete remission. But his treatment is ongoing.
"I feel really good," Gettleman said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm apologizing for that. My energy's good. Chemo ain't fun, now, there's been a couple days where – oof. I mean, it rocks your world. Now that I'm going through it, my gosh… It's not fun, but a really unbelievable scary kind of statistic: 50 percent of all men are going to have cancer. Just so you guys, you know, everybody's looking right and left. 50 percent of the men in the United States are going to have cancer. I'm blessed, I feel good, I feel energetic. This is a week that I don't have chemo in the hospital. Monday and Thursday I have doctor's appointments, Monday and Thursday I'll have doctor's appointments next week. Basically what I'm doing is, I'm exercising, I've been told I got to ride the bike so I've been exercising. I come in around 10:30-11 and stay until about 7- 7:30, and I feel good."
But he was still a bit taken aback when Goy told him he was in remission.
"What was really weird was that I didn't quite understand it," Gettleman said. "Here I am thinking I'm pretty smart. When he told me, 'You're in complete remission,' it was like, it was kind of weird. I'm saying to myself – but, he very quickly followed up, 'You ain't done.' … Just all of a sudden you go from, within a five week period I'm told I've got aggressive lymphoma, and in five weeks, he said everything is going to be okay. That's a quick turnaround."
Asked if he looks at life differently and more preciously, Gettleman answered in part by saying, "If anything, it's just confirmed where I've been getting to for the last seven years, if that makes sense. Life is precious, I don't care what it is, you just can't not appreciate how important people are and how, really, we're in the people business. At the end of the day, it's not about how much money you make. It really isn't, it doesn't mean anything. It's really about what you do with your gifts, and family is our true legacy."
Gettleman began his news conference by thanking everyone who has supported him. He later thanked the Mara and Tisch families, assistant general manager Kevin Abrams, and members of the team's medical staff, among others.
"Prayer does work, and being in the right place spiritually and mentally has been a huge plus for me," he said. "My family has been unbelievable."
He spoke to the team two nights ago when the players reported for the beginning of training camp. As always, Gettleman had an important message to convey.
"Unfortunately, I can't hug and kiss and do all that stuff because of my immune system, but it was great to see them and talk to them," Gettleman said. "There's basically two points that I made to them. I've been blessed. I've been on teams that have gone to seven Super Bowls. I kind of feel like I know what it looks like, smells like, tastes like. And, the remarkable thing about all those Super Bowl winnings and non-winning teams was, they were teams. It wasn't about Joe Schmo and Bill Smith and this guy and that guy. It was about who they were as a team. Lou Lamoriello, who obviously has had a tremendous amount of success (wining three Stanley Cups when he was the New Jersey Devils' general manager), he's back with the Islanders, right? He made a great statement. I guess somebody asked him about a player that apparently had left the Islanders, was a very good player, and Lou made a great statement which I believe in and subscribe to, in that, 'Individuals win games, teams win championships.'
"I talked on that point to the players, I discussed that with them, and the other point I made to them is, one of the things that everybody's got to understand is, this is the NFL. No one's on scholarship, no one's taking a redshirt year. So, what I told the players is, we're at camp. You guys have earned the right to get to training camp. Now it's time for you to earn the right to get to the 53 (regular-season roster). And then once you make the 53, you've got to earn the right to be on the 47 (game-day roster). So we talked about that, and I said to them, that's every day. That's every rep, that's every meeting."
Gettleman also answered some football questions:
*On coach Pat Shurmur:
"He's got a great way about him," Gettleman said. "Generally speaking, I'm being very general here – I was a long-time pro (personnel) guy, so pro (personnel), you do the advance, you work all week, you go to the game, and now you've got to put a booklet together for the coaches and you sit down in your kibitz. Generally speaking, one side of the ball listens, and one side of the ball doesn't. What I've found is, defensive coaches, if you look at NFL history, the greatest head coaches – most of the greatest head coaches – have come from the defensive side of the ball. They tend to be very pragmatic. Joe Schmo goes down, Sam Smith goes in, these are our adjustments.
"I've got a head coach who has been on the offensive side of the ball his whole career with that pragmatic approach so, I'm in heaven, I'm in absolute heaven. He's very pragmatic. I think he's got a great way about him with the players. He keeps it simple. We're playing football, it's not rocket science. We're playing football, put the ball down, let's go, eleven guys, let's go. I'm thrilled with Pat. I couldn't be happier. He's everything I thought he could be."
*On the contract negotiations with Odell Beckham, Jr."
"I'll reiterate it - don't waste your time taking our temperature," Gettleman said. "Contracts get done when they're supposed to get done. We've spoken, I've had conversations with Odell. So, that's where it stands."
*On cornerback Sam Beal, who was chosen in the supplemental draft on July 11 but must undergo shoulder surgery.
"We knew about the shoulder, there was no mystery there," Gettleman said. "It's like drafting anybody that's got an injury, we knew about the shoulder. We had MRI's that Arizona had taken, he comes here, re-injures it, does what he does, and you know, it is what it is. Best case scenario, he's on the field and we're not talking about this. Really and truly, we felt we're getting next year's third round pick this year. So now with the shoulder, we get it fixed – it's about a five-month procedure – and he's ready to go in the spring. So, it is what it is. Anybody can get hurt."
*On linebacker Connor Barwin, who was signed yesterday.
"There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not asking myself, 'Have I given Pat and the guys enough players to win?'" Gettleman said. "I firmly believe that, and I kept looking at our depth chart on defense and I just felt we needed a little more, one more veteran presence. I talked to Pat about it, he was with Connor (in Philadelphia), loves him. It's funny, as these guys age, if you manage them properly you can get some quality snaps out of them. Now it's about quality snaps, it's not about quantity. Connor still has some quality snaps in him."
Gettleman said he will not be able to accompany the Giants next month to Michigan, where they will practice with the Detroit Lions for three days prior to the teams' preseason game. But he left no doubt how he expects to fulfill his G.M. obligations this year.
"Full-time," he said. "It'll happen."
View the best photos from Friday's Training Camp practice