When I first found out I was coming back to the Giants, I was in total shock. It was totally unexpected. I had no idea. After the initial shock wore off, I couldn't have been happier. I was super excited to be back. I never really wanted to leave in the first place.
Since it was New York I was happy. If it had been somewhere else, I don't know how happy I would have been. Being able to come back to somewhere I'm familiar with is nice. It's just familiar to me here. It's a great feeling to be coming back here. New York really felt like home. They brought me in here. I owe my whole career to the New York Giants. It's such a wonderful, top-notch organization. I was thrilled to be coming back.
The trade happened around the final cuts, and I was aware of that at the time. I wasn't too worried. But after practice one of the Bucs guys came walking on the field toward me. He told me that the GM wanted to talk me. A trade didn't even cross my mind. I thought they were cutting me. I couldn't believe it. I was pretty upset. It was unbelievable, crazy.
I walked in and they told me it wasn't all bad. They said they liked me a lot, but that they had been talking to the Giants and had worked a deal out. I had three hours until I had to get on a plane back to Newark. I couldn't believe it. I ran home, packed as fast as I could and I've been up here ever since. It's been great.
My year in Tampa was good, but of course I went down the first day of minicamp and broke my leg. I came back probably sooner than I should have, and was actually able to start the first five games. In the fifth game, I broke the end of my clavicle off. I tried to play through it, but I was like the sixth man at that point, so it was kind of frustrating for me. It was frustrating to have two surgeries in less than a year down there.
I really wanted to stay here in 2002 when I was a free agent. It was difficult to leave, but that's just the nature of the business. We had a real close group of offensive linemen. I hated leaving those guys, but at the same time you have to do what's best for your family.
It was tough, but it was also exciting to go somewhere new and do something new. But being back here really does feel like home. I feel like I should be a New York Giant.
It meant a lot to me that they put me right into the lineup once I got here. I didn't really know what to expect right away, but it really wasn't that tough. I was playing between Shaun O'Hara and Luke (Petitgout). I've known Shaun since he was a rookie, so we were already friends. Those two guys did a great job of communicating with me. We all did a lot of extra studying. The transition was a little difficult because I like to know everything about what everybody's doing, but it went as smooth as can be expected.
I really like Coach Coughlin's offensive system. I like his system and think his play-calling has been great. Coach Gruden in Tampa is obviously a great coach and a mastermind, but I just think this offense here fits my style better. We run the ball a lot; we pull the guards a lot, and do a lot of play-action.
I had been playing right guard for years, so it's been an adjustment playing on the left side. Your stance is different; your other hand is usually down. It's just awkward getting into that stance. I've been working on it. I still keep my right hand down, which is different than what most left guards do, but it feels better to me. Plus I have that cast on my left hand; it's hard to put your hand down with that cast. But all in all it's been a much easier transition than I thought.
Two days before the first preseason game, I broke my hand. It's nice that it's protected like it is, but it's a pain in the butt. You can't grab and hold onto anybody. I know you're not supposed to, but you have to grab. It is a little frustrating having to play with it, but I've been doing it for so long that you just kind of get used to it. The hand's healing up pretty nicely, so hopefully I'll be able to knock it down a little at a time while the hand heals up.
I think our offensive line is much better than people think. I think by the end of this year, people are going to be pleasantly surprised. We have a lot of smart guys that play hard because they have a lot of heart and it means a lot to them. This offensive line is getting closer. We're all becoming great friends. You look at all the great offensive lines, like in Kansas City and Green Bay; those guys have all played together and have that continuity. A lot of it is that they know what the other guys are going to do and they play well together.
We have a lot of the same qualities that those other lines do. We're tough guys; we're going to run around and hit people and bust our butts trying to get downfield. We also have a lot to prove. The Giants line has been dogged the last couple years and I'm not so sure that it's been warranted. We've had a lot of injuries.
I'm pretty high on our team, too. I read and hear that this is a rebuilding year and I don't think that's true at all. I don't think Coach Coughlin expects that and I don't think the players expect that. We all have high expectations and are planning to play well and win. You can see that in this locker room.
This has been some crazy ride for me so far. As an undrafted free agent coming out of Southwest Missouri State in 1998, I could have never seen all this happening. My first year I was just thrilled to make the practice squad. During my second year, I started to play better. That's when I realized that I would be able to play in this league. It's amazing. It's really just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. There are so many good players that don't make it.
I'm just so excited to be back here. I can't even explain it. Me and my wife, Natalie, have three little girls now – a three-year-old, a 20-month-old and a six-month-old. We definitely have our hands full. But my life couldn't be better. We're both so blessed and so excited to be back here.
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