Bear Pascoe spent a final night with his roommate on Tuesday. They reminisced, lamented the circumstances that separated them and watched television. This morning, Pascoe bid farewell to Jake Ballard, who was claimed off waivers yesterday by the New England Patriots.
"I drove him to the airport this morning and said, 'Good luck,'" Pascoe said at the Giants' minicamp. "Not a whole lot was said. He's still adjusting to it, but he'll be great wherever he goes. He's a great athlete, a great football player, and you hate to lose a good teammate and you hate to lose a good friend like that. But that's the great thing, we'll always be friends."
But they are no longer teammates, so the Giants could be searching for a long-term solution at tight end. Pascoe, the longest-tenured tight end on the team, would like to fill that role. He has plenty of company, but Pascoe knows he will have an opportunity in training camp to earn more playing time.
Ballard was not expected to play this year because of the knee injury he suffered in Super Bowl XLVI, so Pascoe's immediate prospects have changed little. But a consistent contribution this year could enable him to force his way into the team's plans for 2013 and beyond.
"My plan is right now to work hard and make our team better and hopefully kind of take over that number one spot," Pascoe said. "But we've got some great competition out there. Right now, the way I look at it is, it's anybody's game. It's just a matter of working hard and making our team better."
Pascoe will be competing with former Dallas Cowboy Martellus Bennett, who was signed as a free agent; holdover Travis Beckum, who is progressing after injuring his knee in the Super Bowl; fourth-round draft choice Adrien Robinson; as well as Christian Hopkins, Ryan Purvis and Larry Donnell.
Of that group, only Pascoe (22) and Beckum (26) have caught regular season passes from Eli Manning.
"Me and Eli have worked together for the past couple years," Pascoe said. "I think I've built some good trust with him. Right now it's all about building on that trust, you know - getting detailed, fine-tuned as much as possible, so he's not worried about me. He knows I'll be in the right spot. That's kind of where we're at right now. Also, it's bringing those other guys along. If I'm not in there, he's got trust with them, too. He knows that the tight end group is solid and we know our job and what has to get done."
Pascoe joined the Giants on Sept. 15, 2009, when he was signed to their practice squad. He was added to the active roster on Dec. 4 of that year. He has played in 35 regular season games with 23 starts at both tight end and fullback. In 2011, Pascoe played in all 16 regular season games with 11 starts (four at tight end and seven at fullback). In addition to helping the rushing attack with his outstanding blocking, Pascoe had 12 receptions for 136 yards (11.3-yard avg.) in the regular season and five catches for 39 yards in the postseason, including a six-yard touchdown in the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco.
Which right now to him means…nothing.
"You come in, you start from ground zero, basically," he said. "It's every year, there's opportunity to move up and move down. This is a new year, we finished high last year, we have to keep going this year.
"I look at this as a great opportunity to step up and kind of take over that spot for the time being. Now it's a chance for me to step up and take it over for a long time. So the opportunity's there. I just have to do my job, step up and help make this team a better team and win football games."
Beckum yesterday ran for the first time since his knee surgery. He felt no pain then and none today.
"It was good, it was really good," said Beckum, who has added 20 pounds to his frame and now weighs 242. "It was exciting. Obviously, I'm making strides to get back where I want to be. The training staff is doing an unbelievable job here, showing me I've got to take it day-by-day and that's what I'll continue to do.
"I'm one of those guys that likes to take injuries on very aggressively, so I want to be cautious about the whole situation, and just know that it's kind of one of those things as far as my grasp, it just needs time to heal. Not be too aggressive on it but not be too timid."
Beckum expects to play this season, perhaps as soon as the opener. He thinks the tight end situation is similar to the one on the team last year.
"Jake's a very close friend and losing him is a key loss," Beckum said. "But it was the same thing with Kevin (Boss). Kevin left, and Jake stepped up. So someone's going to have to fill his shoes."
Robinson missed the OTAs and a lot of classroom work while he fulfilled his degree requirements at the University of Cincinnati. Robinson has been playing catch-up at the minicamp.
"It's been kind of hectic," Robinson said. "My head's spinning a little bit trying to catch up with everything. It's going to take a lot of individual study time, watching a lot of film. I think I'll be able to get caught up to speed.
"I'm learning plays, formations, everything - it's only my second day back. I remember some things from (rookie) minicamp but so much other stuff has been added. It's been kind of hard, but I think I'll be alright."