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Justin Pugh shows versatility in return to left tackle



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Justin Pugh visited an old college friend today – left tackle.

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Pugh played the position exclusively at Syracuse from 2010-12. After the Giants selected him on the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Pugh played right tackle for two seasons before moving to left guard this spring.

The Giants were down two left tackles today. Will Beatty is on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing surgery in May to repair a torn pectoral muscle. His replacement, Ereck Flowers, this year's top draft choice, missed practice with a hip flexor issue. So Pugh moved over to play tackle, with Adam Gettis stepping in with the starters at guard.

"It was great," Pugh said. "I felt right at home out there. When I switched to guard, I felt very, very comfortable on the left side. I had fun out there today. You throw (quarterback Ryan) Nassib in there and it's like Syracuse all over again. Just throw Nassib in there, throw (defensive tackle Jay) Bromley in there, and Jameel (McClain) at linebacker and we've got a little two-on-two we can work with. It was good."

Pugh said moving to the end of the line required a minimal adjustment.

"At left tackle, there's a little more space," he said. "You're dealing with a little bit different rusher; you go from (tackle Johnathan) Hankins to (end) Damontre Moore, and they're totally different guys. But I'm used to it."

The Giants like Pugh, in part, because of his versatility.

"He's obviously played left tackle in college," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He came here and played right tackle. In the spring we moved him to left guard knowing full well that he would have to move around. So we thought today would be a good day to put him at left tackle. (Right guard Geoff) Schwartz came back out, so we had Schwartz out there. We had John Jerry out there, so that he could do a little something with the right side as well. His versatility - he's a smart player."

"I told the Giants when they drafted me that I can play all five positions," Pugh said. "This morning, they came in and said, 'You're playing left tackle,' and that's what it is. I think you can look at David Diehl who did the same thing and won the Super Bowl. So you have to be versatile, you have to be able to step up when your number is called and play whatever position. The biggest thing is working as a unit, having all five guys on the same page. If I get reps at left tackle today, Adam Gettis gets reps at left guard and we get to build that camaraderie. You know things are going to pop up, things are going to happen and you're going to need guys to step up, and that's what happened."

Pugh's feistiness was on display at tackle when he got into a scuffle with Moore. A swarm of teammates surrounded them, but no additional punches were thrown. That didn't mollify Coughlin.
"I've got a problem with all of them (fights), because they're out there swinging," Coughlin said. "I've been hurt firsthand by a guy who broke his hand in a fight. In the old days they used to wrap it up and play with it, they don't do that anymore. I was upset about the fight and losing their temper and all that stuff. The bottom line is you can't afford to do it, to lose a guy."

"He's right, he's right," Pugh said. "It's something that boils up when all offseason you can't put pads on and hit somebody. It's fun, you know. Like I said, I'm going to bring a fighter's mentality out there. Obviously, fighting, someone could get hurt, and that's something I definitely have to appreciate when coach says that. But at the same time, I'd rather coach yell at me for fighting someone than yell at me for not fighting someone. You know what I mean?"

Pugh said the fight was very brief and that he and Moore were laughing about it afterward.

  • Coughlin seemed optimistic that Flowers will soon return to the field.

"He doesn't seem to be bad," Coughlin said. "It's a hip flexor issue. This morning he was sore, but by the time I caught him in the meeting room, he was doing this (stretches leg). Hopefully, it's just a short amount of time."

  • The second part of today's shift was moving Gettis up to play with the starters at guard. Gettis has played in 13 career games, all with Washington in 2013.

"Gettis played well yesterday and we thought this would give him a chance," Coughlin said. "If he was going to catch our eye, this would be a good way to do it."

  • Few people are likely to be as happy as wide receivers coach Sean Ryan that Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. are back on the field together
  • "It's great to get those guys back and work them in," Ryan said. "Coach Coughlin told you we're being careful with them. They're on a pitch count. We're working them smart. Either way, to get them back out there and moving around - they've been great in meetings and great at taking their mental reps. They're getting their physical reps, and I think they've done a really good job with the role that we are having them play right now."
  • Defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. grew up in Jersey City and played a year of football at Hoboken High School, so it's no surprise one of the players he watched closely was Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.

"I got his autograph," Ayers said. "Growing up in the area, he was a role model, I idolized him. Local TV always had the Giants on, so he was the guy that I watched, you know, tearing people's heads off. Him, Amani Toomer, Tiki Barber, all those guys. I grew up watching that. My father played the position he (Strahan) played. My father wanted to go to college and play defensive line. Unfortunately, his career didn't go where he wanted it to go. But, watching him, he would always have me watching John Randle out in Minnesota. Those are the two guys that I grew up, that my father made sure I watched. When I got a chance to meet him, I was kind of in awe a little bit, because this is my first time meeting someone that I actually idolized. There are other guys that I would like to meet in my life like Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan - I would love to meet Muhammed Ali. He was one of those guys that were on that list for me. I got to meet him and I got his autograph and I wasn't shy about asking him for it."

  • The players are off tomorrow and will return to practice on Wednesday. Wednesday's practice is not open to the public. The next open practice will be Thursday August, 6th at 2:30 PM.
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