A Conversation with DT Norman Hand

Hand heavy on run-stuffing ability One of the biggest changes this season under new coach Tom Coughlin is Norman Hand. Actually he is the biggest change from last year's undersized (relatively speaking, of course) DT tandem of Keith Washington and Cornelius Griffin. Hand is a massive presence on the field and he's expected to be a large presence inside the locker room as well. Read on to see what the Queens-born 10th-year vet had to say on the eve of his debut season in New York.

Q: How special is it to play in New York after growing up there?

A: It's very special. Knowing the defense and tradition here, I'm glad to be a part of it. Maybe we can make our name like LT and Harry Carson. We already have a special player on our D-line in Strahan. We're just trying to build our own identity. The Giants have always been known for defense and we're trying to get to that point again.

Q: Were you a Giants or Jets fan growing up?

A: I was a Giants and Jets fan. I grew up watching Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko and LT, Leonard Marshall and Jim Burt.

Q: You didn't have a preference?

A: No, I'm a New York guy. Just like with the Islanders, Rangers, Mets and Yankees, I always root for the New York teams.

Q: How can playing next to Michael Strahan help your performance?

A: I'm going to be freed up on the pass because everyone's going to slide the line to him. They'll double him and leave me one-on-one. On the run, I'm going to get most of the double-teams. Hopefully that will free him up. It's kinda going to work vice versa. Me and him will be fighting for sacks and tackles this year. I know I'm not going to put up 15-17 sacks this year, but hopefully I can put up seven.

Q: Are you a better pass rusher than people realize?

A: I would think so and it's just by working at it. The last four, five years, I've just been labeled as a run stopper. In 1998, I had six sacks. Since then, I've just been labeled as a run stopper. But I've always liked playing the pass and want to be known as a complete player. Coming to a new system, they're giving me an opportunity to rush the passer. I feel pretty good, but I still have a lot to learn. Right now, I'm just beating people off strength. Once I get the technique down, I think I'll be all right.

Q: Besides your obvious size, what makes you such a success against the run?

A: Just technique and understanding the game. Being here 10 years, you kind of know when a double team is coming. My biggest thing is knowing my backfield sets. If you know your backfield sets and know how the offensive line sits back and all that, you pretty much know what they're going to do. That just comes with experience. I look for the backfield sets and how far the linemen are set and see how close their feet are to each other. That gives me a pre-snap indication of what they're going to do.

Q: How much did you weigh when you signed with the Giants in April?

A: I can't even tell you what I was at. I can tell you now that I'm under 330. I'm at 326. I haven't been this light since about four years ago when I signed with the Saints. I feel pretty good about that. I want to get under 320 before the first game. That's my goal right now.

Q: Is that what you want or what the coaches are asking you to do?

A: That's basically my decision. I think I'll feel better and can help the team out more. If they want me to put back on the weight, it'll be no problem. I'm just a hamburger away. I definitely want to be 320 for my sake because I haven't been that low in years. Plus I'm getting older so I need to take care of myself better.

Q: Was your weight when you signed here as high as you've ever been?

A: I believe so. Without putting numbers on it, I believe so. When I got hurt last season (arm) I couldn't work out. I got hurt during the sixth week and I couldn't work out after that because they didn't want me to get the wound infected. I had to sit around home. I'll never do that again.

Q: Were you leery about signing here because of Coach Coughlin's reputation?

A: That really didn't weigh into my decision. Once you're on the football field, you're there to do a job. He's the commander-in-chief right now. Every coach is going to be tough on you; that's their job. That stuff doesn't bother me. I wanted a fresh start and they wanted me here. That was the big key. They targeted me. That's why I came here. They showed the most interest and they said they needed me to come here.

Q: How much are you being asked to help the younger players on defense?

A: That is my style. But I like to show by playing. I think I'm leading by example by going out there and playing. You can be vocal all you want, but if you don't make any plays no one's going to listen to you. I try to show by example by going out there and working every day and playing hard. Guys recognize and have more respect for you if you play hard. That's definitely better than being vocal and then doing nothing in the game.

Q: Heading into your 10th season, how much longer do you plan to play?

A: I want to play three more years and I want to play for the Giants. I don't want to play for anyone else, but you know how it is. It's a business so you never know what can happen. But if I had it my way, this would be it. I want to play three more years for the Giants and call it quits. This is a dream come true for me to come here and play and I want to end my career here.

Q: What would you be doing if you weren't playing football?

A: I'd probably be a bouncer or security guard or something like that. I have always wanted to be an anchorman on ESPN or to host my own sports show.

Q: How many throwback jerseys do you own?

A: It all started when I got the size that I am. I used to get frustrated because I'd always see all these little guys wearing the jerseys. I said if they ever make a three- or four-X or five-X jersey that I'd buy every last one of them. When they started coming out with these things about four years ago, I just went crazy. I have boxes of this stuff. Some of them I just wear once and I put them up. I got a couple of them signed by some famous people. I'm real proud of the collection. I have over 500 of college hoops and more than 800 total.

Q: What are some of your favorites?

A: Some of my favorites are my Scottie Pippen Central Arkansas and Gary Payton Oregon State. Just the colors. I have a Wayne Gretzky All-Star Campbell (Conference) jersey. In the NFL, I have a Pro Bowl Barry Sanders jersey and a Jim Kelly Super Bowl jersey.

Q: Do you have a Norman Hand throwback jersey?

A: Yes I do. I have a Norman Hand high school throwback jersey and a high school basketball jersey. I also have a Norman Hand Ole Miss jersey (number 90).

Q: Now that camp's over, what are your thoughts on this team and the upcoming season?

A: This team can be good if we all play together and get our assignments down. Everybody hates to lose. No one wants to go through that. No one wants to face the pressure of the media in New York. That gives us all the motivation to go out there and play hard.

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