Veteran running back Jonathan Stewart discusses joining Big Blue and having a lot left to prove:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Culture is critical.
Dave Gettleman used that phrase when John Mara introduced him as the Giants' new general manager in late December. Since then, he has repeatedly referenced the locker room of his 2015 Panthers as the shining beacon. With Gettleman as G.M., that team went 15-1 and made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
What better way to start recreating it than by signing a veteran who was a part of it?
That is where Jonathan Stewart came into the equation. The Giants yesterday signed the Panthers' all-time leading rusher.
"It felt very special," Stewart said of the 2015 Panthers. "At the end of the day, having a good group of guys that mesh well and have a good chemistry and … just understanding the end goal, which is to win championships and to have a family-oriented culture -- I think moving forward, I'm pretty sure that's kind of the culture that New York is expected to have next year, which is the reason why I gravitated towards the decision with the Giants."
"I am very pleased that we were able to make Jonathan a New York Football Giant," Gettleman said. "He is a quality runner with power and speed and brings a veteran, professional presence to our locker room. He's a terrific addition for us at this time."
Stewart, who was released at the end of February after 10 seasons in Carolina, comes to the Giants organization at a time of major change. First, it was Gettleman. Then Pat Shurmur was hired as head coach, and he brought along a new staff. And there is also the matter of what the team will do in free agency and the draft, where the Giants hold the second overall pick.
That only piqued the interest of the veteran changing teams for the first time in his 11-year career. Reuniting with Gettleman and offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who was an assistant in Carolina for seven of those years, was also major reason.
"It played a significant role," said Stewart, who also visited Seattle and Detroit as possible destinations. "Dave believes in me, and it's just good to know that the G.M. believes in what you can do on the field. And Mike Shula, there is a familiarity with the offense and the scheme, and I believe in what they're going to do moving forward with the draft. They're definitely a good team, they've got a lot of good players on offense and defense, and I'm just excited to be a part of it."
Don't get him wrong, though.
The running back is turning 31 later this month, but he feels he has more in his 5-foot-11, 240-pound tank than just a veteran presence.
"I've got a lot left," he said. "The only reason why I would be playing is if I knew I could play and I know I can play. Dave knows I can play. There is a lot that I feel I want to prove and writing my own story as far as how things shape up moving forward for me. I'm excited about the opportunity at hand and I'm grateful for the owners taking a chance on me and trusting in the G.M. and the coaching staff to trust me."
The Giants signed free agent RB Jonathan Stewart