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Veteran long snapper Zak DeOssie stresses value of preseason

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Trivial fact of the day: Zak DeOssie will play in his 48th career preseason game Friday night when the Giants face the Jets in the annual MetLife Bowl. Trivial fact two: that will be one less than Eli Manning, who has played in more preseason games than any active player in a Giants uniform.

Although the two longest-tenured Giants and close friends play vastly different positions, they have much in common. Both are longtime team captains (Manning each of the last 11 seasons, DeOssie each of the last seven). They are secure in their positions; Manning is preparing for his 15th season as the starting quarterback; DeOssie has no training camp competition as he settles into his 12th season as the team's long snapper.

About those preseason games. Though they have no relevance to the regular season and leaving the field in good health is the primary goal, Manning has always been convincing when speaking about why he considers them important – getting in sync with his receivers, seeing defenses that differ from those he faces in practice, and this year, working in a new offense and getting a feel for Pat Shurmur's playcalling.

DeOssie has none of those concerns, but even with all of his experience, he doesn't discount the significance of August games.

"I think over time you learn, as a specialist, to love the preseason games," he said this week. "You might come into camp feeling very good and getting into a groove and then reality sets in. Then you've got to deal with ups and downs of being a specialist, and nobody's perfect. You want to be able to work through all the kinks before we go live week one, and that's how I view it. A lot of people ask me how it feels to play all through the fourth quarter and I prefer it; it gets my mind right. You can never replicate game-winning kicks and last-minute situations, which I think are paramount to getting your mind right for the season."

That business-like attitude is one reason DeOssie quickly endeared himself to new coach Pat Shurmur.

"He's got a lot of experience," Shurmur said. "He is very, very, very accomplished as a long snapper, he's got a great way about him and has a great feel for things. He's seen a lot and so he's doing a lot of things in terms of leadership."

DeOssie, 33, has played in 172 regular-season games, plus 12 postseason contests, but he has the same emotions prior to a preseason game as he does when the games count in the standings.

"Absolutely," he said. "My job is binary, good or bad. It's a volatile job, always has been since day one, since 2007, so all those feelings are still there. You learn to embrace those feelings when they come your way."

DeOssie was involved in big plays in each of the Giants' first two preseason games. In the opener vs. Cleveland, he recovered a fumble by returner C.J. Board at the Browns' 14-yard line. Three plays later, Jalen Simmons scored the Giants' only touchdown of the game on a five-yard run.

"I'd like to save that for the regular season, but you've got to capitalize on whatever opportunities come your way," DeOssie said. "Preseason is what it is, but you learn to love it over time the longer you're in it as a specialist. You think it's necessary."

In the victory last week in Detroit, DeOssie was the snapper when Aldrick Rosas kicked a 55-yard field goal.

"It feels great," DeOssie said. "We live and die with every kick, every punt, every snap. Getting any sort of big situations under our belt is just a confidence booster going into the season."

In his dozen Giants seasons, DeOssie has worked with numerous partners, including punter/holders Jeff Feagles, Matt Dodge, Steve Weatherford and Brad Wing, plus kickers Lawrence Tynes, John Carney, Josh Brown, Robbie Gould and Rosas.

"It's just been a wild experience," DeOssie said.

This year, he is breaking in a new punter and holder in Riley Dixon, who arrived in the offseason via a trade with Denver.

"The adjustment period takes place in the spring, and we had that opportunity to get to know each other," DeOssie said. "I've been blessed with some great holders over the years, guys who are athletes who have great hand-eye coordination. Riley, not only is he an exceptional punter but a great holder, too, so that makes me sleep well at night."

The fact that the Giants are confident enough in his talent and work ethic is another reason for DeOssie to feel secure.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be here," he said. "Whether or not they bring somebody in is above my pay grade, and I don't waste any time on that. Any opportunity to compete, be put in tough situations and to come out on top, that's the whole point why we do this."

Even in a preseason game.