EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Justin Pugh went straight off the couch into the lineup and then onto the Giants' roster.
The remarkable career resurrection of Pugh continued Wednesday when he was signed to the team's active roster off the practice squad.
Two weeks ago, Pugh hadn't played in a game since tearing his right ACL on Oct. 16, 2022, while starting at left guard for the Arizona Cardinals in Seattle. The Giants signed him to the practice squad on Oct. 3, five days before he watched the team's loss in Miami – sitting on his couch in an apartment five minutes from MetLife Stadium.
The Giants elevated him to the roster for their game Sunday in Buffalo. Pugh played the first nine snaps of the game at left guard before moving over to left tackle when Josh Ezeudu injured his toe. Pugh couldn't recall when he had last played the position at all. He last played left tackle extensively in 2015. Pugh had zero practice reps at the position before playing the game's final 68 snaps there.
"I mean to play 80 plays, a year removed, I had got three practices in," Pugh said. "It's just one of those things, you got to do what you got to do for the team. We had a guy who had an unfortunate injury, limited numbers, it was like the perfect storm for me to have to go do that. I haven't played left tackle in eight years. And then the Buffalo Bills have the number one sack defense in the NFL. I look out there and it's Von Miller. The last time I played for the Giants was six years ago to the day against Von Miller, Sunday Night Football, when he was on the Denver Broncos, and I had to go out to right tackle on a whim that week. So, there has just been so many crazy things that have brought this thing all full circle and I don't know what it is, there is something in the air."
View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.
Pugh also forever immortalized himself with his Sunday Night Football introduction. Most players recite their name and collegiate alma mater. But Pugh went with, "Justin Pugh, straight off the couch," which lit up the internet.
"So, straight off the couch," Pugh said when asked to explain the origin of his viral moment. "I was riding the bus to the hotel, and we landed in Buffalo, and they're like, 'Hey, you have to shoot your Sunday Night Football (intro).' Obviously, I went to Syracuse University, and I always say Syracuse University, and I still love Syracuse University, so all my Syracuse folks out there, I give you your flowers. I love you so much.
"But I truly was watching last week Sunday Night Football on the couch. It just hit me, like, I was a fan last week watching football. How many times can you be a fan watching your favorite team, the New York Giants, and the next Sunday you get to go play for that team on Sunday Night Football? That is a story. I really came straight off the couch and started on Sunday Night Football, and nobody can ever take that away from me. If I never played another football game and that was my last one, I could go out like that.
"Then obviously, the Giants called the next day and said, 'Hey, let's get a deal done.' So, we were able to come back and keep doing it."
Pugh credited a fellow offensive lineman for making a key change in his script.
"I've got to give a huge shoutout to Jalen Mayfield," Pugh said. "I was going to do, 'Fresh off the couch,' and he's like, 'Straight off the couch.' He said straight off the couch to me when he came out. I was like, 'That's it.' That's it right there. So, I went in and did it.
"It was me, him and (quarterback Tommy) DeVito in there doing our Sunday Night Football (intros), and DeVito has got some good personality. They were my hype guys."
With Andrew Thomas still unable to practice and Ezeudu now on injured reserve, the NFL's most famous couch potato might start at left tackle when the Giants host the Washington Commanders on Sunday.
"I thought he did some good things," coach Brian Daboll said. "Again, he hasn't played tackle in a while. We talked about it, like I said before, but we'll give him obviously some reps out there and make sure we get him ready to go."
Perhaps the only demerits in Pugh's second Giants' debut were two false start penalties.
"Obviously, I had some cadence issues," he said. "The silent cadence is different for every team and obviously at guard I can really 'periph' the ball a lot better, so that was a major factor. I was getting out jumping the count, then I was a little too slow and I remember coming to the sideline like alright I figured the snap count out, we are good to go. I am just going to go out there and fight and that's all I can promise you is I'll go out there and fight. It's not always going to be pretty and it's not how this game is, it's just I am going to go out there and battle and give it everything I've got. That's all I can ask. There are going to be bad plays, there are going to be plays I mess up and there is some story of life in there where you get back up and you fight, you clear that play and that's something that I think is good for anybody."
Pugh was the 19th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. He played five seasons for the Giants before signing as a free agent with the Cardinals in 2018 and spent five seasons in Arizona. After suffering a serious knee injury in his 10th season, Pugh didn't know if he would play again. He's thrilled this opportunity is with the Giants.
"Everyone besides the players is the same," he said with a laugh. "Every personnel person, all you guys (reporters) are the same, like this feels very familiar. It took me a little – it was like riding a bike. Meeting the new guys and, like I said last week, I don't think all the guys even knew who I was or that I'd played here before or any of the history."
In his first stint with the Giants, Pugh was a go-to guy for reporters for his accessibility, candor and wit. He hasn't changed. It's safe to say not many players would respond to a question whether other teams had reached out to him by saying about him joining the Giants, "this is all Jerry Seinfeld's fault."
And how's that?
"Honestly. I was at a restaurant, Torrisi, in New York, like, four months ago over the summer," Pugh said. "My wife and I are sitting there with some friends and across from us is Jerry Seinfeld. I hear his voice, and it was the most quintessential New York moment of all time. I remember texting my agent, like, 'Text the Giants, I want to come back.' So, really, if it wasn't for Jerry Seinfeld, I don't know if I'd be here right now. He's the greatest. He's the G.O.A.T. But from that point forward, I knew I wanted to come back here. Everything worked out perfectly. They (the Giants) played in Arizona (on Sept. 17). They stayed there for a week. I came and worked out 10 minutes from my house. They called me right after that. I fly in here. The way I started; it was just meant to be."
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who joined the Giants in a trade on Aug. 24, was Pugh's teammate in Arizona the previous two seasons.
"I was glad when I saw we signed him," Simmons said. "I like Pugh a lot. He showed me nothing but love since I was a rookie in Arizona. One of the first things I asked him was, 'When are you gonna be able to get out there?' He was testing his knee and seeing when it was gonna be ready. I think he said he just needed to show it was healthy. It's good to see him out there."
No matter what happens, Pugh said this will be his last NFL stop. He was "super excited" to sign his contract today. Pugh doesn't know how much he'll play in the last 11 games, but he's happy to be back in familiar surroundings, on and off the field.
"It made me feel really good, because after that game every one of my teammates and coaches and guys that I've played with from my first year in the league to last year in the league texted me and said, 'You have no idea how proud we are of you,' and that means more to me than anything. There's no dollar amount that you can put on that. To earn the respect of these guys in the locker room and my fellow teammates and coaches, that's what gets me emotional or excited. All of it."
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s for the 2023 season as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.