EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On Friday night, Lorenzo Carter provided evidence that he might become the pass-rushing linebacker both he and the Giants want him to be. The third-year pro was arguably the best player on the field in the team's intrasquad scrimmage. He was unofficially credited with 4.0 sacks and seemed to spend as much time in the offensive backfield as Saquon Barkley.
But Carter focused on vastly more important current events than sacks and football in his post-scrimmage Zoom call with reporters.
"Over the past couple of months, it has just been really rough for me and the community of Black people," Carter said. "I know my team, we have come together, we've had many talks. At this point, I really just feel like my main focus is making sure we do what we can do to bridge the gap between Black people in this society and everybody else. The state of this country, I'm not comfortable. Nobody is comfortable. The people that I know in my hometown, the people that I've talked to, my teammates, we're not comfortable and this isn't okay, whatever is going on. I just feel like this country is divided. We have to use our platforms, we have to use our voices as Black men, as athletes, as influencers. Anybody that has a voice needs to use it. Not just Black, not white, not just Latino, everybody, we have to come together. Until we do that, I can't really honestly think about football."
The hearts and minds of the Giants, like so many people around the country, are consumed by the steady drip of painful news that continued this week. The shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers in Kenosha, Wis., inequality, and racial and social injustice have been the subjects of several discussions among the team's players, coaches and ownership.
A post-practice gathering on Thursday – the latest in a series of meetings in which Joe Judge and the assistant coaches have been active participants - resulted in the Giants displaying their unity prior to the scrimmage, when they very publicly continued their immersion in current events and quest to be a force for positive change. The players and coaches – plus president and chief executive officer John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman - formed two lines on the field and locked arms as the stadium video boards played a team-produced video that was made the afternoon of the scrimmage. It featured clips of Mara and Judge and players Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Sterling Shepard, Nate Ebner, Dalvin Tomlinson and Golden Tate stressing the importance of the team's commitment to social justice and racial equality.
"Waking up and seeing everything that's going on in this country, I just know this team, these people, these men, we are going to do everything within our power to make sure we bring about real change," Carter said. "We are not going to stop with the video that we did locking arms at the 50-yard line before the scrimmage. That's not it, that's a small gesture but we have a lot more to do, we have a lot more work. My guys, everybody is working hard. We are doing more than just talking. We stand with the NBA, we stand with the MLB, we stand with the MLS, we stand with all the professional athletes that are choosing to make their voice heard. Choosing to use their platform for positive change and for peace and for justice."
All Giants players wore helmet decals of the community group with whom each is aligned.
"We kind of came up with an idea," Barkley said. "We came out and kind of came up with an idea of what we wanted to do. We wanted to focus on justice and change and to be able to challenge other people and showing this community that we stand with them. We were able to go out there as a team and kind of get the message across. That's not the only thing that we're going to do. We've been doing things within our teams, of giving back and really focusing on our community and focusing on things that we feel like can help change what's going on in this world. We kind of wanted to have that message to challenge other people to step up too and rise to the challenge."
"Obviously, it's been a tough week, really," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "We've had a lot of conversations as a team, as players and certainly, a lot went into the planning of that and deciding to do that as a team, to stand together as a team and to make a statement. That was kind of the goal. We started back in the summer kind of coming together as a team and looking for a way to take action, a way to kind of come together as a group, as a team, and hopefully drive some change, drive awareness and eventually action. That was kind of a piece of the program that we've had going really since this summer.
"We're going to continue to do that, continue to work through our groups in our teams, and hopefully make a difference. But it's been a tough week. Certainly, a lot of emotions, certainly a lot on everyone's mind. We have a unique opportunity as athletes in this generation to help lead change and help lead this movement. That's something that as a team we're taking very seriously and hope to help make a difference."
Carter, a relatively quiet presence in his first two seasons with the Giants, was deeply emotional when he spoke late Friday.
"I woke up this morning thinking about the different people that have been done wrong," Carter said. "Just thinking about that this is the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's 'I Have A Dream" speech. I can't help but feel like everything Martin Luther Jr. said in that speech is still relevant today. We're still dealing with the same things and that's not right. We should be further ahead as a country, we should be further ahead as a people. We just need to do what we need to do. Also, the 65th anniversary of Emmett Till's murder. Honestly, that's all that's been on my mind this whole day.
"Other than that, honestly, I haven't thought about football too much today. I haven't thought about anything dealing with our game plan, anything dealing with this season, anything dealing with the game of football. It's literally just been trying to figure out what we can do as a team. What I can do personally and what we can do as a country to end this. I'm tired of it, enough is enough. I don't want to be in the same situation my grandfather was in, my great-grandfather was in and everything else."
Carter was asked what changes he wants to see in how police officers deal with Black people.
"I just want equality," he said. "I want everybody to realize that all life is sacred, all life is valued. I just don't want to see the injustices done. I want justice, it doesn't matter what race, what color, what ethnicity, what religion. I just want America to stand on the values that were written out in the Constitution. All men are created equal, all men have inalienable rights for life, liberty and justice. I just want that check to be cashed. Like Martin Luther King said, I don't believe they should default on that check. I don't believe America is bankrupt from the fact that we all have the right to life, liberty and justice."
Carter's family has lived with these issues in Georgia for generations. Now his new family, the Giants, have come together to help create a more just society.
"I just know my grandfather lived through this," he said. "These are people that lived through this. I literally was in Atlanta when everything was going on this summer. I literally came to tears as I watched the news and I see the National Guard and people on horses pushing back people, throwing tear bombs. Things that I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Things that I thought were just in the history books. Things that I saw in history books, things that I saw in videos. I actually sat there and watched it in real life. It really was just heart-wrenching and my heart went out to everybody that was out there just peacefully protesting, just trying to do the right thing.
"I feel like we have to continue to do that. Don't let fear and division continue to manifest itself in this country. We have to come together, we have to do it together. I know my team, we come from all different backgrounds. We have guys from the south, we have guys from the north, we have guys from the west coast, people from the middle of the country. We all come together and have a common goal. I need the microcosm of this world that we have in the locker room, I need that to become reality. We all work together, it doesn't matter where we're from. We're all working together towards one common goal. The United States, I believe we are the greatest country in the world, we need to show that. We need to show that we can come together and work towards that one common goal and just be America. Be the dream, this is the American dream. People dream of coming here. We need to create that dream. Keep that dream."
View the best photos from Friday night's Blue-White Scrimmage