EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Offensive lineman Zach Fulton today became the third Giants veteran this week to inform the team he no longer wants to play football. Fulton, who was competing to make the roster as a reserve, had been with the team since March 25. The other players who retired – linebacker Todd Davis and offensive linemen Joe Looney – had each signed last Saturday.
"In terms of dealing with vets that make decisions like this, the biggest thing is that you have to understand, you've got to respect them as a person first," coach Joe Judge said. "As you look at your roster, sometimes you don't want to see any of those players walk out. When we sit down and have an honest conversation, you don't really talk much about football. You talk about family. You talk about their experience in the league. You talk about what they want to do long-term in their life. You talk about a lot of different things.
"I've offered every one of these players an opportunity to actually take a couple of days and think about it before making a career-deciding decision. Each one of them had already told me that, hey, listen, this is something that either they were thinking about throughout the entire process before they came here or had been thinking about the entire process leading into training camp throughout the summer. These are natural thoughts to have."
"It's personal things, I get it," center Nick Gates said of Fulton's retirement. "When you're a nine, 10-year guy, you know when there's personal reasons. I wish him the best and he's a good guy and we'll see. I mean I know Coach Judge said he's welcome back whenever under the circumstance."
The three new retirees all had approximately the same service time in the NFL. Looney, who turns 31 later this month, was entering his ninth NFL season, Davis and Fulton their eighth. Looney had played for three teams, appearing in 104 regular-season games with 42 starts and in three postseason games with two starts. Davis, 29, had also made three stops before joining the Giants and played in 96 regular-season games with 69 starts and played in five postseason games. Fulton had played in 107 regular-season games with 90 starts and started all seven postseason games in which he played for Kansas City and Houston. In 2020, he was a 16-game starter at right guard for the Texans.
"I'd say all three situations are different," Judge said. "Everyone has a different personal circumstance. I respect all three. We've left the door open for all three. … All three of them are good dudes. In the short exposure I had with Todd and Joe, I mean these guys instantly you can see in the locker room that they made an impact on guys around them, so you appreciate all that stuff about them. Zach's been with us through the spring. He's a guy that's been great in meetings. He's an older guy (30 next month). When you sit down and have an actual conversation with him, you kind of get deeper and you put football aside and just talk about family and interests and things going on. You really see the depths of the person. You've got to take the helmet off sometimes.
"We come out here and it's all ball on the field, but what we're working with is people. It's a people business. I talk all the time about knowing the people. I can't turn around and ask somebody to give me their all and that we're always going to have their back and when they make a decision that's best for them and their family, turn around and think slight of them. You've got to respect the decision made and respect every day that they came out here and worked for us, so in the end they have to make a decision for a different path in life and that's it. We support them in anything in the future that comes with them and we'll always be there for them."
Fulton had been here the longest and was the latest to choose retirement.
"I had a good conversation with Zach last night," Judge said. "He talked with me, (offensive line coach) Rob (Sale), Flats (offensive consultant and former line coach Pat Flaherty), (offensive coordinator) Jason (Garrett), (senior vice president and general manager) Dave Gettleman and a few other people in the organization. Zach was doing a good job for us. He's a guy that I didn't want to see go; however, I respect his decision.
"A lot of these older vets, they're at a different point in their life with different things. Zach's a guy that started a business in the offseason, he just had his son. His family is down in Texas. This is an opportunity for him to get back. We talked a lot about just the duration, a career and different things. Your body's in a different point than when you're younger. You get to the point to see do I think I have it for 16 games? And you have to respect when these guys look us in the eye and say, 'Listen, I really wanted to see if I could push through it, but I don't think my body's at that point,' and you can leave this point in the game with your health."
*Although the Giants lost potential experienced depth, Judge said there's no pressure to add a veteran lineman.
"I always say all the time, whether it's a veteran or a young guy, the important thing is to add a good football player that can help this team," Judge said. "We'll work with anybody. If they're going to come in here and they're going to give it their all and they're going to do what we ask them to do, that's a critical part of it right there. It's important to bring in the right kind of people for the program. We've done a good job of bringing in guys who are good, solid people into the locker room and that always helps going forward. In terms specifically of the age, we're just hung up on getting quality players in here. We're not overly concerned with their years of experience in the league."
View the top photos from Friday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.