Marvin Austin was so pumped up for the Giants' first practice in shoulder pads today he didn't make it into his bed on Sunday.
"I slept on the floor last night," Austin said after practice. "My bed's not the best, so I slept on the floor last night and just got ready. I knew it was going to be grown man ball. Gotta separate the men from the boys, and I definitely wanted to be known as a man out there.
"It was awesome. I'm excited, man. I'm elated just to get back out there with the guys and have an opportunity to play with an organization like this and play with the guys that I play with."
Austin's enthusiasm is understandable, considering he played virtually no football the previous two years. In 2010 at the University of North Carolina, he was suspended and then dismissed from the team without playing a game.
That absence didn't preclude the Giants from selecting the big and talented defensive tackle on the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. But in the Giants' second preseason game, on Aug. 22 vs. Chicago, Austin tore a pectoral muscle. A week later, he was placed on injured reserve, shelving him for another year.
If the Giants were to issue an award for most enthusiastic player in training camp at the University at Albany, it would likely go to Austin, who is clearly ecstatic to be back on a football field.
Asked how it felt to don shoulder pads today, he said, "It feels so good. It feels tremendously good.
"I just wanted to get out there and show that I'm ready and show that I've been working. The whole time I've been off I haven't been sitting around lollygagging. I've been working and getting prepared for this opportunity."
Austin has been getting most of his practice reps with the second-team defense. With starting tackle Chris Canty out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery this offseason, Austin has a chance to earn significant playing time. His competition includes veterans Rocky Bernard and Shaun Rogers and rookie Markus Kuhn.
Austin certainly has a defender's mentality.
"I try to hit people and not get hit," he said. "I try my best to go out there and deliver the blow. I feel a lot of things coming back to me – recognition, noticing certain things. I'm working on just converting and being quicker with my game. I think I'm playing pretty strong. I'm playing small ball, as (defensive line) coach (Robert) Nunn would say. The little things will count.
"We have veterans like Rocky Bernard, Shaun Rogers, Chris Canty. All those guys are watching you and they say, 'In due time, everything will come. Work hard on your technique and everything in practice. And try to be as perfect as you possibly can in practice and in the game. It will come naturally.' That's all I've been working on, just trying to do the right things."
Austin didn't have to rekindle his love for football, because he clearly never lost it during his two-year absence.
"It's crazy," he said. "I was watching film before we went to practice. Something just came over me and I was just excited like, 'Damn, I'm back.' It's just exciting to get out there with Pro Bowl-caliber players. Watching (Justin) Tuck. Watching Osi (Umenyiora), JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) - all those guys and then learning from a guy like Shaun Rogers and Rocky Bernard. You don't understand how grateful and excited I am."