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Herzlich preps for camp competition


The Timex Performance Center is unusually quiet this time of summer. In the six weeks between the conclusion of the Giants' minicamp and the beginning of training camp, the coaches take their only extended vacation of the year and the players enjoy family time, traveling or a myriad other pursuits they can't engage in when football is in session.

But not Mark Herzlich. He has been working out here on his own four days a week and will continue to do so until the Giants report to the University at Albany on July 26.

"For me, this is enjoying myself," Herzlich said. "If I went somewhere and took weeks off, I'd be mad at myself that I wasn't working out, because this is enjoying myself. I come in here, I'm done by one o'clock, I go back and play with my puppies and go to the beach, or do something. But if I can get a good workout in everyday throughout the week then I feel like I'm progressing."

Herzlich hopes to gain an advantage – and a starting job. In minicamp, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Chase Blackburn "is our guy" at middle linebacker, in part because "no one's clearly beaten him out for the position." Herzlich, a second-year pro, thinks he can change that and be the starter when the Giants open their season on Sept. 5 against Dallas.

"I definitely think I can - that's my goal," Herzlich said. "That's why I'm here every day working, to try to get that job.

"It's all a competition. I think the good thing about the Giants is they want to win and I think whoever gives them the opportunity to win will be able to start at that position.  For me right now, it is just learning the plays and knowing them, as well as I can so that way I can go in and let my play speak for itself."

Herzlich's rookie season was both inspirational and disappointing. He made the team as an undrafted free agent, continuing his remarkable recovery from Ewing's sarcoma, the rare form of cancer he contracted at Boston College, forcing him to miss the entire 2009 season.

Herzlich played in each of the Giants' first 11 games, primarily on special teams. He started the last two of those games at middle linebacker, including a loss on Nov. 28 at New Orleans, where Herzlich suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season – including the four-game postseason run that culminated in victory in Super Bowl XLVI.

Ironically, it was Herzlich's injury that prompted the Giants to re-sign Blackburn.

"It was frustrating," Herzlich said of his prolonged absence. "As awesome as it was going through the playoffs and winning all the games and winning the Super Bowl - obviously it was a dream come true. There's still something left on the table for me, personally, because I didn't get to play in those games. So it pushes me even harder right now, because I don't want that to ever happen again. I don't want to be watching those games and not playing in them."

Herzlich was an every-day participant in the Giants' offseason conditioning program, OTAs and the minicamp. While his teammates are certainly working out wherever they are, Herzlich continues to run, lift and put himself through football drills at the Giants' complex.

"It's a good place to be," Herzlich said. "I have the field, all the equipment I need, I've got the facility. I had vacation time before OTAs. Now it's for working out and getting ready for camp.  And that's what the next five weeks are for to me. On the weekends I can go and do some things, but I'll be here during the week working out."

Herzlich is working just as hard mentally as he is physically.

"The biggest thing I'm doing right now is studying because, I have to be mentally sharp when we get back," Herzlich said. "That way the athletic ability can kind of take over. 

"I'm watching film and going over the plays. I took a lot of good notes during the OTAs and I review those and look at the practice film from the OTAs and look at what I didn't do well, what I did do well, what I need to do to get better, and really self-analysis of what I have to do."

When he does leave the facility, Herzlich spends much of his time with his six-month-old English bulldogs. He purchased them from a breeder near his families Pennsylvania home.

"I've wanted dogs forever, since college," he said. "This offseason seemed like a great time to get them. I named the boy Champ, for obvious reasons, and the girl is Scout."

Herzlich expects to stay on his current schedule until the Giants report to training camp.

"I'll probably cut it down from four workouts a week to maybe two that week," he said. "That will give me a little time to rest. But you don't want to take too much time off or sit around too much because your body is used to working at a high level. Then if you stop for a week, you get lactic acid buildup and you have to go and get two days up in camp to start moving again.

"I'm used to year-long training and some people think you've got to take a break to rest. But there's different sorts of training you can do which rests certain muscles, rests certain parts of your body, where you actually stay active. And that's what I've got to do."

His opportunity to compete for a starting job might depend on it.


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