EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -** Justin Pugh's first experience in a pro football game was a false start.
No, it wasn't a penalty on Pugh. The Giants' first-round draft choice was poised to take his first-ever snap in an NFL game with 4:13 remaining in the second quarter when it appeared the Giants had a first-and-goal at the one. But the officials picked up their flags after ruling that wide receiver Ramses Barden was not interfered with in the end zone. The down and distance changed to third-and-nine. So Pugh trotted off.
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"We have this jumbo package and I got to go in," Pugh said. "And then the penalty got taken away, so I had to run back off the field."
Pugh's debut was merely delayed, not denied. He entered the game with 45 seconds remaining in the half and played left tackle through the end of the third quarter in the Giants' 20-12 preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts in MetLife Stadium.
"It was awesome," Pugh said. "It was awesome to get out there with the guys and finally play. You get those jitters out of the way. It was great to get out there and compete. I was able to get in there in the second quarter, get some points up on the board (Josh Brown's 45-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter). But obviously, it's tough going from starting to having to come in late in the second."
Pugh started at left tackle all 34 games in which he played at Syracuse before the Giants selected him with the 19th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Now he's getting accustomed to a part-time role. Pugh missed a week of practice and the preseason opener in Pittsburgh because of a concussion he suffered in practice. A right tackle before the injury, he was moved to the left side upon his return last week.
"I felt comfortable over there," Pugh said. "I think just knowing what I had to do definitely helped me out. I had some good plays, I had some not-so-good plays that I wish I could get back, but I think overall, definitely learning from this I'll be able to get better next week. I'm just excited to get out there and practice and correct some of the mistakes I had."
He did have a few. Pugh spent most of his time blocking one of three Colts - rookie linebackers Caesar Rayford and Bjorn Werner and third-year defensive end Lawrence Guy. He held his own on some plays, but Rayford got by him to sack David Carr.
"I think I did all right," Pugh said. "I had some real good plays there. Obviously that one, that one with the sack, you've just got to keep getting better and keep working on your technique. I definitely feel like I had more positive plays than negative. There are a couple of plays where obviously you wish you could get back, but you learn from those and you get better."
When the defense was on the field, Pugh huddled with his fellow linemen and line coach Pat Flaherty. During his spare moments, he conferred with 11-year veteran David Diehl, who has played every position on the line except center and is currently the right tackle.
"He was just telling me to use my hands, something that I've just got to keep getting better with, to strike," Pugh said. "You never want to catch when you're playing offensive line, so you want to strike and make sure you're confident in your set."
"You watch and you help each other out," Diehl said. "That's the thing, for a series I was sitting there watching him, watching his technique, seeing what different types of looks he has and just doing anything I can to help him improve on his technique. Last week, he wasn't able to play due to the concussion so this was actually his first live test. So I'm going to be out there watching him, trying to coach him up, seeing if there's anything I can do to help him throughout the game, because I've been in that same situation before. It's part of being a teammate and it's part of being an offensive lineman and a brother and being one of those older guys. You're here to support those younger guys and to help them out and make sure they're making strides to improve their technique and constantly making improvements."
Pugh could conceivably take on a larger and more significant role. Center David Baas suffered a sprained knee on the game's first series. Tom Coughlin did not have an update of Baas' status after the game. If he is sidelined for any length of time, it's conceivable the Giants will have to do some shuffling up front and Pugh could find himself in the mix.
For now, he's enjoying just playing pro football.
"It's kind of like being a freshman all over again," Pugh said. "You're in a new place, new surroundings, new locker room, you kind of have to learn what your role is within the team. It's been fun, though, just competing and getting better. I have a great group of guys in front of me, so it definitely helped me out. It's something where, next week, I'm excited to get out there and get some more snaps and play."