A Conversation with Ike Hilliard

All off-season, Ike Hilliard was in the center of a storm regarding his failure to treat his injured toe. Teammates and employers alike publicly and privately accused Hilliard of numerous wrongdoings. All along, Hilliard kept his mouth shut until meeting with reporters one day in early June. Words spoken that day only further fueled the fire. As camp opened, Hilliard assured everyone that things were fine between himself and Coach Fassel.

However, it's clear that Hilliard is unhappy with the way that he's been treated this off-season and taken to task after four years of good service to the Giants. Here's what the Giants' injured receiver had to say about his situation as the first full week of training camp came to a close.

Q: Physically, how are you right now?
A: Nothing's really changed. I'm just going to go day-to-day and week-to-week with it. My physical status is nothing that I'm going to be concerned with. That's something for everyone else to worry about. Mentally, I'm trying to stay stable and just trying to take it as it comes and see how it goes.
Q: Do you have any timetable for a return right now?
A: Timetables are something that I can't control. This is a process that takes time, but time is something that I don't necessarily have on my side right now due the nature of how the whole process went down. I've played through injury before and obviously it's something that I'll have to do again at some point.
Q: What's the latest doctor's report you've received?
A: I saw Dr. [Russ] Warren and spoke to Dr. [William] Hamilton and they both said the same thing. Basically, the swelling hasn't gone down all the way yet. This is a very slow steady process. We've made some progress in the motion of all areas, but it's something that's going to have to go away gradually. Some of the stuff I'm just going to have to deal with. I'm just trying to get back as quick as I can.
Q: On a normal day, how does your foot feel?
A: Well, right now, I just got back from rehab so it's very sore and hurts a lot. It usually dies down some about a half-hour afterward.
Q: How does it affect you in your daily getting around?
A: Hey, there are a lot of tough people and tough guys in our sport. Everyone's been asking me since they see that I'm walking fine if I'll be able to go soon. When I was walking around with this injury last year, and nobody knew, it was obvious that I was a great actor then. Now, I'm not so sure why everyone is so concerned with me walking fine or correctly now. If all of the information would have been given out last year, I could deal with all those questions. But no one knew and now I'm a great actor because I can walk around.
I'm OK, but it hurts. It has to hurt. It's my foot. I put all my weight on my foot. If I could isolate it or hop around on one leg, I would. But I'm in the stage where it's called the probing and prying stage, according to the doctor, and as much pain as I can take, the better. The more I could move it, the better. The more pressure I could put on it, the better. It's not necessarily a good thing, but it has to be done. That's the nature of the injury.
Q: What kind of things have you been able to do so far?
A: I did some trampoline work, gradual sliding board, Stairmaster. I've been in the pool for conditioning. I've done some weightlifting. I've been doing little things like putting a two or three pound weight at the end of a towel and curling my toes, trying to pull the towel forward. We're doing whatever we can to get this fixed right away.
Q: On the first day of camp, you said everything is cool with Coach Fassel. Is that really the case?
A: Jim has enough problems on his plate. I'm here and doing everything that they're asking me to. That stuff is behind me, regardless of the nature and how it went down. I'll just leave it at that.
Q: Is it fair to say that you're upset with how everything went down?
A: Who cares? All anyone is concerned about is Ike getting on the field for Week One. The rest of that is history. It's the truth. Regardless of whether I'm upset or they're upset, that's water under the bridge.
Q: Best guess, do you think that you'll be ready for the first game?
A: No idea. I really don't know. No timetables have been set. We're working twice a day until the end of camp. Hopefully at that point, I can streamline it a bit and we can go from there. The numbers don't add up realistically. But now I hear that I'm a ‘quick healer,' at least that's what's all across the Internet. I can only wonder where that came from. Now that's it's everywhere, let it be known that I'm a quick healer. I'm just going to do my best to get back on the field and try to help my teammates.
Q: It seems like you're hurt or bothered by all the media treatment you've received. Is that true?
A: Who am I to be hurt? Who am I to be treated fairly by the media? I'll just keep saying the politically correct thing and go from there. My job is to play football, so it's in my best interests to be able to play that first game. If not, I'll have to deal with the consequences. We'll just see how it goes. That's all I can do right now.
Q: But when you talk to your family or friends, what do you say about all this?
A: I try not to bring my work home with me. That's probably the same situation with everybody. A lot of things happened this off-season and it all came to this point. I'm six weeks out of my surgery and I'm not ready to play football. That's how it was given to the public. So I've just got to get ready.
Q: Could you have ever foreseen something like this happening when the off-season started?
A: I guess it comes with the territory. I just so happened to hear that this was one of the most controversial off-seasons in Giants history. Well, I apologize for being the focal point of that. I'm not that kind of person at all. But let everyone tag me as they see fit. It was the most controversial off-season ever here. Can you believe that? But it's past, so that's old news. Q: But are you comfortable with that?
A: I'm OK. You're not going to get a story out of me. You're just not. You want to get anything from anybody, talk to Jim Fassel, [my agent] Neil Schwartz or [trainer] Ronnie Barnes. That's where everyone can get their stories. I'm not going to start a war of words.
Q: If you had this situation to do over starting in February, would you do anything different?
A: No. I've apologized and done everything I've needed to do. As far as me saying ‘No,' that I wouldn't have done anything differently, I mean that. No one had a clue pinpointed as to what was wrong with my injury until they cut me open. Everybody knows that as far as I know, but if they don't, now they do. Shame on me for saying the truth. I'm still not sure [surgery] was the right thing to do. If everyone wants to rip me, go ahead. It's OK; I'll deal with it. If that's what everyone wants, that's what they've got.
As far as this other stuff, it's water under the bridge. Dr. Hamilton did a great job. I hope and pray that I'm able to go out and perform again. I'll leave it at that.
Q: Are things the same with you and your teammates as they were before all this?
A: I don't know; ask them.
Q: But what's your perception?
A: Who am I to judge? I don't judge them, so they shouldn't judge me. All I know is that they know what type of ball I play and I hope that they firmly believe that whenever I can get back out there on the field with them, that I'll play the same way. I promise them that I will do that. I won't change my game a bit. As far as all the off-the-field stuff, wherever they choose to do with my life, that's what they're going to do. I have to co-exist with them. That's what I'm paid to do. Q: How tough is it not being able to contribute during this camp?
A: It's tough, man. After being called names and injury-prone, yada, yada, yada. To have people look at me like I'm on vacation or something is tough. I was talking to Michael Strahan, and he said ‘You know what, it's a shame at times, but you constantly have to prove yourself, have another hurdle to hop over.' That's fine. I'm a fighter; I won't stop.
Q: Do you think what's happened will affect your future here?
A: My future is solely in their hands. You know that from this off-season. I guess you have to ask them that.
Q: Does anything stand out from this off-season that someone said?
A: We'll be here for another half-hour. I'd rather not comment any further, but I'll leave it at this: After four years, no domestic violence, no drugs, no bar fights, not even really a speeding ticket. In a couple of months, I become this unprofessional person that is hard to deal with. That was tough for me to understand, but I do because of the nature of the business.
Q: Any message for Giants fans that may not know your whole story?
A: This may become another problem. It's going to get back to them, and I said I wasn't going to speak on any of this anymore. I said I was just going to continue to shut my mouth and go about my business, and leave it at that.
I'm still the same person that I was at Day One. I've learned a lot more about the game and the business. I've been blessed enough to progress in my game the last couple years due to my on-the-field and off-the-field ‘situations.' I hope and pray that I'll be able to bounce back from another injury and continue to try to play the best football that I can play. Hopefully they'll continue to enjoy watching me in a Giants uniform for as long as I'm here.

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