EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – He is replacing one three-time Pro Bowler, was part of a trade for another, and is coming home to play in front of his family and lifelong friends.
But Jabrill Peppers insists he will face no undue pressure playing for the Giants.
"I'm just excited to play football again," Peppers said today on a conference call. "Excited to go to the Giants and be one of the best players I can be. I hold myself to a high level, and I intend to play at that level."
Peppers was obtained last week from the Browns in the blockbuster trade that sent wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. to Cleveland, who also sent the Giants first and third-round draft choices. In a separate deal between the same teams, guard Kevin Zeitler joined the Giants in exchange for linebacker Olivier Vernon.
"It definitely came as a big surprise, but it what it is," Zeitler, who will be the Giants' right guard, said on his own call. "I'm excited and I thank Cleveland for the opportunity. I'm excited to be a New York Giant and I'm ready to get to work."
Peppers, who is entering his third NFL season, is expected to replace Landon Collins at strong safety. He will team with 14-year pro Antoine Bethea, most recently a member of the Arizona Cardinals, in the back of the Giants' defense.
General manager Dave Gettleman said he is not concerned about Peppers being burdened by outside expectations.
"Jabrill is a hell of a kid," Gettleman said. "He is very bright, he's young. We talked about it. At the end of the day, he is coming here to play football. He is going to have Antoine helping him out. Jabrill is very bright in terms of his intelligence. I told Antoine, in time. Jabrill should be able to make the calls back there. He doesn't feel that pressure, he is thrilled to be coming home. He is very close to his mom, he is going to live in Bergen County, I think. I don't think he feels that pressure. He is just excited to be a Giant. It's the team he grew up cheering for, this kid's coming home. I don't think he feels that pressure, and we certainly aren't going to put that pressure on him. There is no reason for there to be that kind of pressure on him. He is coming here to be a safety, play football and help the New York Giants win games. It's that simple.
"He was an important piece of the trade. I didn't trade Odell straight up for Jabrill Peppers. Jabrill was an important piece to that trade. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I believe in his ability. We watched film, we evaluated and we did him coming out (for the NFL Draft two years ago). I was in Carolina at the time, he came in for a private visit down there, so I had personally spent time with him. He's part of the trade and he's an important part of the trade. He's coming here to be a safety for the New York Football Giants."
Peppers grew up in East Orange, N.J. That community and the two high schools he attended, Don Bosco Prep and Paramus Catholic, are all a short drive from MetLife Stadium, which thrills his family members.
"They're excited, they're excited," he said. "It's a much easier commute than Cleveland, Ohio. So, that works out."
Peppers was the 25th overall choice in the draft two years ago, but he wasn't shocked the Browns traded him.
"It's a business, so nothing really can surprise you," he said. "It's just more of a blessing in disguise, and I feel as though God doesn't make mistakes. If this is the path He wants me to walk down on, I'm going to embrace it. It was more of an exciting, exhilarating feeling. Just a new road to go down, and I'm excited to go down it."
So is Zeitler, though he doesn't have local roots. He grew up in Wisconsin and played at the state university before Cincinnati selected him on the first round of the 2012 draft. He played five seasons with the Bengals before joining the Browns as a free agent two years ago.
He joins a group of offensive linemen that includes Nate Solder and Will Hernandez at left tackle and guard, respectively, centers Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley, and right tackle Chad Wheeler. Like most offensive linemen, Zeitler believes communication and familiarity breed offensive line success.
"Cohesion does matter for an O-line," he said. "When you work together with guys for a long time you have the ability to know what they are thinking and what they are thinking of doing before it even happens. We have the offseason program, OTA's and training camp. I think we have more than enough time to get the group on the same page."