EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Apple has turned the page and is eager to author a much more positive story in the remaining chapters of his football career.
"I'm just trying to be a better player, a better person, and a better teammate this year," Apple said today after the first of the Giants' organized team activities (OTAs). "Obviously, with the stuff that happened, I just want to continue to work on myself and just communicate better and just not let certain stuff get to me. Continue to strive and get better every day."
Apple is the first to admit his sophomore NFL season in 2017 went off script. His play was not at a level expected of someone taken 10th overall in the NFL Draft (in 2016). Apple was inactive for four consecutive late-season games, returned to play two, and then was suspended by the team for the finale against Washington.
"Everything happens for a reason," Apple said. "I think I went through what I had to go through. It's good to look back and learn from it. I think I'm better now that I've seen it.
"I'm just going to fine tune everything, come in with a different attitude and just be positive out there on the field and just to everything that I can to make myself better as a player, and everybody else better as a team."
Apple said he is "very excited" about his and the team's prospects for 2018. At the end of last season, some outside observers wondered if he'd be on the team this year. But he's been lining up as the first-team left cornerback throughout the spring drills.
Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur, the Giants' first-year general manager and coach, respectively, have enabled Apple to get a fresh start by telling him not to dwell on what happened last year.
"Just their excitement," is what stood out to Apple about his new bosses. "Just saying that they know I'm a great player and they just want to get the best out of me. That's something I definitely appreciate."
And Shurmur has appreciated the effort Apple has made this offseason.
"You hear things, but I'm sure glad that I truly believe in a clean slate," Shurmur said. "He's been nothing but professional, he's been out here competing, he's one of the guys that has been here almost every single day, and I haven't seen anything that somebody might have thought I heard. He's been great."
Shurmur was asked if he told Apple that he had a clean slate.
Photos from the Giants first OTA practice of the 2018 offseason!
"I did with all the players and I think that's important," Shurmur said. "What you're trying to do is inspire these guys to play at their best. I hear things, but I can't truly say I know exactly what happened, because I wasn't here. But I do know this, there are guys out here that are very prideful, they're very professional and they want to do really good things, and Eli is one of them."
Apple was unhappy that he was suspended for the last game of the season. As soon as he heard the new regime would give him every chance to succeed, he knew he had to take advantage of the opportunity.
"I was just like, you know what, just the way stuff ended, I didn't want it to ever get to that," he said. "So every day I've just been thinking about just being better, being more positive.
"Was I embarrassed?" Apple said, repeating a question. "Of course. Nobody wants to go out the way I went out. I mean, it was all over the place, so of course."
Although he played in three fewer games (11) and started four fewer (seven) in 2017, Apple matched his rookie totals with 49 tackles (41 solo). He also had eight passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. Apple had a season-high nine tackles (seven solo) vs. Philadelphia on Dec. 17.
"It was a little up and down," Apple said of his season. "Some things I got better at, some things I got worse at. Now it's just about being even-keel and moving forward. It's my plan to put everything together and get better overall.
"I'm definitely high on myself. I feel if I get right with my teammates and everybody, and communicate as much as possible on the field, I think the defense can do great wonders."
And Apple can help lead the way.