On NFL draft day, an athlete’s biggest dream is to hear his phone ring. But on NFL cut day, a phone call from his team is the last thing he wants to hear.
Luckily for a select few of Big Blue’s rookies and young vets, their phones stayed quiet well past last Saturday’s 6 p.m. cut-down deadline and are now a part of the 53-man roster. Now, instead of worrying about where they’ll work next, they can start focusing on their opening day opponent — the Redskins.
“When we came in [Monday] we got right to work and got right to Washington,” said undrafted rookie fullback Henry Hynoski, who survived cut day. “It is intense around here and everybody is down to business. We are getting ready to go out and have a great game this week.”
The Giants have 10 rookies on their roster, including seven of their draft choices. Due to the injury bug hitting them early, especially on defense, head coach Tom Coughlin said he’ll have to depend on many green athletes. Many of his newbies will be forced into action — and they better be ready for the workload.
“It better be a good thing, it has to be a good thing,” he said of the forced youth movement. “They bring vitality, they bring energy and I just hope we can get it down, chain it down and get it in the right direction.”
Rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich, who also made the cut, said he thinks the younger players can hold up their end. Herzlich, whose defeat of cancer has been much publicized, is one of four rookie linebackers who will fill many voids.
The versatile Herzlich can play all three linebacker spots and has also shown his special teams prowess. Coughlin said it’s guys like Herzlich who can help the Giants fight through the injury-depleted roster.
While Herzlich said simply making the roster was never the goal. Now he wants to contribute to the team in the regular season and is well aware of what lies ahead.
“Everything picks up from here on out. The speed picks up a little bit and even [Monday] there was a little bit of [larger] sense of urgency in terms of getting things done right, getting things done fast,” Herzlich said. “I think that just carries over [from training camp] and we had that great intensity during camp. I think that helped build up to this week … this week it’s all about business.”
Herzlich may not see much action at linebacker, but his special teams effort will most definitely be on display. The former Boston College standout wasn’t a regular on the return units, but said he’s enjoying this newfound role in the pros.
Fellow rookie linebacker Spencer Paysinger agrees that special teams will play a huge role this season and is proud that he’s part of a unit in which so many rookies and young veterans play a prominent role. The former Oregon Duck got some noticeable looks at weakside linebacker when starter Michael Boley was nursing a sore back. Paysinger played well in the veteran’s absence but knows his money will be earned tracking down shifty return men.
Paysinger said each of his fellow rookie linebackers have a niche to hone this season.
“We have four rookie linebackers and I don’t think there is any other team in the country that kept four rookie linebackers,” said Paysinger. “All of us individually have something we can bring to special teams. Mark [Herzlich] is a bigger guy who can run down the field. Jacquian [Williams] can cover people and Greg [Jones] is really good inside the box and I can do a couple things, so we all bring something to the table.”
Come Sunday, the Giants’ youth movement gets their chance to show just how much they can bring.
Big Blue notes
» Last Saturday’s cut-down day kept all the marginal players on pins and needles until the 6 p.m. deadline passed. Herzlich and his fellow rookie teammates tried all they could to keep their minds occupied.
“I was with Tyler Sash, Spencer Paysinger and Henry Hynoski for breakfast at IHOP and we tried to get our minds off of it by gorging ourselves with pancakes,” said Herzlich. “Then I went to Chili’s and sat by myself for the afternoon watching the [Boston College] football game because I couldn’t find it on TV anywhere else. … When six o’clock rolled around and I didn’t get a call, it was the most anticlimactic happy ending that you could think of. It was an ‘All right my phone didn’t ring, let’s go celebrate,’ type of thing.”
Paysinger said he was just as nervous as Herzlich: “I was a little nervous because it is a business. If you do well or you do bad, cuts have to be made,” said Paysinger, who added he waited by the phone most of the day. “I got a call at about three or four o’clock that said I was good but something could change before five or six o’clock. When 6:01 came, I kind of let the air out.”
Despite being a rookie, Paysinger said he knows cuts are the nature of the business, so he was prepared for any scenario: “I do know it is a business. I have seen some pretty good players get cut,” he said. “Watching the cut status on Twitter and seeing some players get cut, I was surprised that some guys got let go. At the end of the day, it is a business and I am glad to be here.”
The former Oregon Duck added he hated to lose the number 49 jersey he donned in training camp because of its sentimental value but added it’s a good trade off because it means he made the team: “My [workout] shorts and stuff say 55 but truthfully I wanted to keep 49 because of my grandmother’s birthday being April 9th,” Paysinger said. “But league rules say that if a 50 number is open, a linebacker has to fill it before you can give out 49 or another number.”
» Tight end Jake Ballard wasn’t so worried, as he expected to make the roster: “I knew what I could do. Maybe I was a long shot but I knew I could block and surprise them in the receiving game and that’s what I did and I played well in the preseason games,” Ballard said, adding he uses every slight as motivation. “I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. It started my senior season at Ohio State. Coach Coughlin always says, ‘play like you’re a 21-year-old kid trying to make the team’ and that’s my mindset every day.”
Ballard also said he understands why fans are worried about the tight end position, sans Kevin Boss: “Absolutely [I understand their angst because] when you lose a player like Kevin Boss [who] is a great player and caught a lot of balls for us last year,” Ballard said. “I guess it is hard for fans to realize that when he leaves, there is not going to be anybody here to replace him [but] I’m not saying anybody is trying to replace him. We are just trying to help out the team the best we can. We are going to try hard to fill a void. I think these three guys [Ballard, Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe] all have something to bring to the table and I think that we are going to do well together.”
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