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Who's the Baas? Meet the Giants’ new center

The Giants didn’t go crazy in free agency, but they did add a key cog to their rebuilt offensive line.

The Giants might’ve had an off day yesterday, but it didn’t mean guys stopped working.

There are too many fringe players and guys on the bubble to even think about truly enjoying their only official off day of the week. Even for rookies and young vets assured of a roster spot, they were still out there putting in the work, making sure they’re doing everything they can to make a difference in Big Blue.

Center David Baas isn’t on the bubble but as a newcomer to a unit that was once heralded for its cohesion, he feels like a rookie sometimes, which makes him work even harder — even on those off days.

“I haven’t had too much time,” Baas said when asked if he’s enjoyed any outside activities in his new home area, adding he hasn’t even gone house-hunting yet. “I flew in that week and went right to work with meetings and eventually practices once we were allowed to do so. And I haven’t stopped yet. But no one has shied away from helping me and that’s the best part.”

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound Baas has impressed everyone in the locker room due to his work ethic, versatility and ability to quickly learn yet another system. This will be his seventh new system in as many years. While he experienced some center-quarterback exchange problems in a recent practice, Baas said it’s no big deal and can corrected.

His biggest task, he says, is gaining the trust of his new linemates. He added that figuring out line calls, making sure everyone is in-synch and becoming the anchor of the line is what’s most important.

“It [jelling] has to be fast. With the lockout [adjustments] have been really short. Everything has to be corrected fast, especially with our first game coming up Saturday in Carolina,” Baas said. “But I think it’s [learning curve] actually faster because of the guys being able to explain things. Guys like Kevin Boothe, who taught me a lot while we had to sit out practices [until Aug. 4]. He’s been really great at explaining things so I can transfer things from the old system to here and get me ready to where I can get right into practices without a problem.”

Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said he’s not worried about Baas fitting in physically, as he marveled over the shape Baas is in. Flaherty said he’ll be monitoring how well Baas adjusts mentally to being the center as opposed to his time in San Francisco as a guard. He played just one season — last year — as center for the Niners.

“It’s all mental with David Baas,” Flaherty said. “We put him right in there, though. There are going to be some things that won’t be as smooth as you want but he’s going to be the guy that is snapping balls and making calls. He’s fortunate to have David Diehl on one side and Chris Snee on the other so there are two guys that have been in our system that will be a lot of help to him.”

Flaherty doesn’t think Baas will need to do much leaning from the other vets, though.

“From what I can tell right now from being around David Baas is he’s an intelligent guy and an extremely hard worker,” said Flaherty. “He’s a veteran and takes things home with him and he does study. I’m excited and enjoy working with him.

Big Blue notes

» File this under “hope you’re not eating while reading this” department: Wideout Devin Thomas broke his right pinkie finger in practice over the weekend and is out indefinitely. Thomas dove for a pass and when he popped up he said he looked at his glove and the pinkie “was just all wrinkled.” Then he took off his glove and the bone was straight but the flesh was dangling. “I saw bone. It was pretty shocking [to see] bone, just raw bone. I’ve never seen it like that. Never seen my bone before. It was pretty white, too.” Thomas was in high spirits at Monday’s practice, even joking with reporters, asking if they wanted to see what was under the bandages. He’s out indefinitely until the training staff can figure out if he’s safe from infection.

Thomas also said he’s still feeling the sting of being let go by the Redskins, mid-season last year. Soon after being waived, head coach Mike Shanahan famously ripped Thomas for his alleged poor work ethic and a lack of commitment. Thomas said he “still hears [Shanahan’s] voice in my head telling me to work harder.” The fourth-year pro is hell-bent on proving Shanahan wrong. “Time’s coming for me to have a chance to showcase my skills … It is a motivation tactic. Honestly I feel like our relationship was one [where] we had a lot of communication and from the way things ended it kind of caught me off guard. I definitely held that for motivation.”

» Weakside linebacker Jacquian Williams, middle linebacker Greg Jones, and strongside linebacker Mark Herzlich have been impressive as rookies. “I like my young group,” linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said. “They’re a great group of kids.” Herrmann said Jones played at a “high level” at Michigan State and said he has “great instincts.” Herrmann is also impressed with Williams’s athleticism. The odd men out of the rotation figure to be Clint Sintim and Philip Dillard.

Sintim may see time in certain packages but he’s no longer the starting strongside linebacker. Mathias Kiwanuka has been named the starter there and will see SAM action on first and second downs. Kiwi will most likely slide to the D-line on obvious passing downs when defensive coordinator will “unleash” four defensive ends at the same time: Kiwi, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora.

» The loss of Kevin Boss might not sting as much as Giants fans fear. Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe can fill in admirably and when the Giants go to a “heavy” package they can use guard Mitch Petrus. The second-year player frequently subbed in last season at guard for short-yardage situations to allow left guard Rich Seubert to slide over to the blocking tight end slot. This year, Petrus has filled the tight end role in the jumbo package, which isn’t too difficult because he had experience at the position in high school and started his college career at fullback.

» Safety Kenny Phillips has taken some plays off in favor of rookie Tyler Sash, but he better not make a habit of it. Sash, a sixth-round steal from Iowa, has been a delight to the coaching staff due to his instincts and ball-hawking ability. During a recent practice, Sash intercepted a few passes and impressed head coach Tom Coughlin with his “ability to play the angles” in pass coverage.

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