EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Chris Canty will always have unpleasant memories of his first season with the Giants.
"What can go wrong will go wrong, that was the description of my 2009 season," Canty said this week.
Who can argue? Once a model of durability, he spent more time rehabbing than playing. A hamstring injury forced him to miss most of training camp. Canty played in the season opener, but missed the next seven games with a calf injury. He was producing late in the season when he suffered a freakish knee injury on the last play of the final full practice of the season. That kept him out of the finale in Minnesota.
"Talk about insult to injury," Canty said. "That's exactly what it was. It was the last play of practice, which was very frustrating. Kiwi (Mathias Kiwanuka) was playing a block and he dominated his blocker and threw him down. Unfortunately, he threw him into my knee. I'm just glad that the injury wasn't more significant than what it was. It was a sprained ligament, which was bad enough. But it was one of those things, when you watched it on tape, it could have been much, much worse.
"I went through the whole gamut of emotions last year – anger, frustration, a little despair. Knowing what I'm capable of doing and not being able to do it is one of the most frustrating things that you go through as a player. I wanted to definitely make an impression on my teammates when I first got here and not being able to do that as well is frustrating."
Canty was arguably the Giants' premier free agency acquisition prior to the 2009 season. He was an accomplished defensive lineman who could play tackle or end and he had not missed a game in four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Canty's presence was expected to strengthen a front that was widely considered among the NFL's best. But he finished the season with only 23 tackles (10 solo) and a half-sack.
The line, like Canty, was beset by injuries and did not play up to its expectations. Nor did the Giants, who finished 8-8.
Now everyone is eager to make amends. It's possible no Giant has worked harder in the team's offseason program than Canty. He has practically lived at the Timex Performance Center the last few months. Canty is determined to make everyone forget his 2009 season and have a significant and positive impact on the Giants in 2010.
"I'm on a mission to help this football team any way I can," Canty said. "Last year, I wasn't able to contribute. It was very frustrating being injured and not being able to perform up to my best. This year, I wanted to take all of the excuses out of it. The coaches and the front office have done a great job of putting together a lot of talent on this football team. There's a lot of talent on the defensive line, so there's no reason why I won't have an opportunity to be successful. I didn't want to leave anything to chance this year."
The defensive linemen – who have a new coach this year in Robert Nunn – have been very visible in the program. Canty and his D-line mates often work at the same time and commiserate together in the corner of the locker room they all occupy. Canty believes the springtime comaraderie will pay off on the field in the fall.
"Absolutely, it makes all the difference," Canty said. "Because it's about the guy next to you. You play for your teammates. Out there, you need that kind of rapport. And that starts in the locker room. If you don't have that, if you don't feel connected to your teammates, it makes it very difficult to perform at your best in a team game. So you have to have that.
"This year, I feel like I've given the guys an opportunity to get to know me better. They've given me an opportunity to get to know them better. We're a year into this thing, so we're kind of familiar with each other now. I'm glad that we got that out of the way and we can just concentrate on playing great football together."
Canty played primarily tackle last season. With the departure of Fred Robbins, he is widely considered the favorite to start there next to Cofield this season. The Giants appear to be deep at defensive end with Tuck, Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, Dave Tollefson and first-round draft choice Jason Pierre-Paul. But Canty said that won't preclude him from getting reps on the outside.
"With Coach Nunn we're focusing on a few different things right now," Canty said. "We're focusing on moving me and playing me a little bit more on both sides of the line, playing a little more left side as well. So I'll be flip-flopping a little bit and I'll be playing some end, too. Right now, were just focusing on moving from side to side at tackle. Then we'll go out to the ends.
"I think it will give me an opportunity to take advantage of mismatches on the football field. I'm a big guy (6-7 and 304 pounds). I don't look like everybody else on the football field. I'll have an opportunity to take advantage of some of those guys who are a little more limited."
Limited is not a word Canty would use to describe himself or the Giants as the 2010 season approaches. He knows talking a good game means nothing, but he is genuinely excited about what he and the team can accomplish this year.
"You look at guys putting in the effort, putting in extra time in the film room as well as in the weight room," he said. "Guys are focused this year, particularly on the defensive line. Guys understand what we want to do and they understand what we can be. So we're doing a little less talking about it and we're just trying to show each other and show this football team and show the fans what we can do.
"The sky's the limit for me. There are absolutely no limitations on my game and what I can do and how I'll be able to help this football team. I'm just excited to be able to show everybody that."
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