EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Like all rookies, Giants linebacker Devon Kennard has about a million questions – every day. Fortunately, he has found a unique and helpful forum for getting them answered.
"We do have an open chat room with all of the linebackers' numbers in it," fourth-year pro Spencer Paysinger said. "If any linebacker has a question, all he does it say it in the group chat, and whoever knows it can answer it. If nobody knows it, Coach Herm steps in and he answers it. It's very open. We joke around in there; it's not all business. It's a great open forum. I think it's a good tool just getting everybody, all of the new guys, acclimated to being here and show them our personalities outside the locker room."
"This group text that we have, it's kind of cool," said the group's leader, Jon Beason. "We'll go into something personal on there and it doesn't matter. Coach is in there, we're all talking about it. Or if anyone has a question - 'Hey, what do we do in this coverage or blitz?' - everyone kind of chimes in. And then also coach uses it to update us. It's been great."
All the linebackers agree on that. Opinions differ as to whether the group chats are better for work or play.
"A lot of it's just getting to know guys," Mark Herzlich said. "We don't talk much football in it. But we discuss what's coming up the next day and we all review it and we're able to study it. Really, what I like about it is that you can just get a feel for the guys, joke around and talk outside of football. If someone's doing something on the weekend, he'll invite the rest of the linebackers so we can get together and create a bond outside of work. That will help us on the field, I think."
"The beautiful part of it is anything that's social still is work one way or the other," said Jameel McClain, a new Giant, but a seven-year veteran. "People love the game so much even when they're just relaxing and watching something, just watching or thinking about football and a social environment can easily become a work environment. You get personalities within one bunch where people get to just talk and have fun. It definitely helps us."
The primary benefactor is likely Kennard, a fifth-round draft choice from USC. He made strides through the organized team activities. Because Beason is sidelined with a foot injury, McClain has moved to middle linebacker and Kennard is taking reps on the outside with the starters in the three-day minicamp that continued today. That's pretty heady stuff for the 174th overall selection in the draft. But Kennard quickly learned he has a strong support system.
"It brings me closer together with the rest of the guys," Kennard said. "Some of these guys have been together for a little bit, some are just coming in and we all get to bond and text and see what each other is doing every day and talk football, too. It's a great opportunity for us to connect and kind of have some fun.
"We have guys saying what they're doing on the weekend. Other times it's more work (related). I'll ask what do I do on this and that defense, or did I do a certain thing right. They'll answer the question or somebody will chime in. It's good, it's a very open group text. These next couple of days, I think guys will be asking different questions saying, 'Oh, did I do this right for that play, what's the install for tomorrow?' It's a little bit of everything. You're open to talk about whatever you want, whether it be football or personal things."
"Sometimes you're not thinking, you're getting dinner, you're taking a nap or whatever, the phone goes off and you check it," Beason said. "(Someone will say), 'Hey guys, the install is this.' So you're like, 'OK, let me get up and get the iPad open.' Boom, you start getting prepared for tomorrow. Now you brief yourself the first time and then you get briefed again in the meeting and then we get briefed again in our linebacker meeting. So by the time you hit the field, you're pretty familiar with it and can play faster, smarter and we can have a great day."
Beason is convinced the camaraderie developed during the frequent texts will help the linebackers on the field.
"Even though football is very different as opposed to an office," Beason said, "I think in any workplace if you can have that unity when it gets tough, because it always does, whether it's physically, mentally or you're just in where you're down on a game and somebody's got to make a play, I think if you know the man next to you, where he went to school, what his kids' names are, what he likes to eat for lunch – I think he'll fight harder for that person when he has a relationship with him outside of the work place."
It certainly can't hurt.
See the best images from Wednesday's minicamp practice