Key to run defense, Clancy just glad to be wanted

Don't ask Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis if he thinks a greater dependency on the 3-4 holds the key to his unit's success in 2005. To Lewis, the question is virtually irrelevant. He believes deployment isn't as important as those being deployed.

"The defense is what it is," Lewis said. "The fact of the matter is that you put people out there schematically to win football games. It doesn't matter if it is a 6-1, 4-3, 3-4, 5-2, it doesn't really matter what configuration. I know the media makes a big deal about the 3-4 or 4-3, but there really isn't much difference."

But when the Giants were shopping for blocks of granite to stabilize the middle of their defensive line, Kendrick Clancy, who spent his first four years in the NFL mastering the nose tackle of Lewis' 3-4 defenses in Pittsburgh, caught his former coach's attention.

"It felt good just to be wanted," Clancy said. "I'm going to give it my all because I know he's [Lewis] sticking his neck out for me by putting it out that I was a good player. I know I need to hold up my end of the bargain.

"I'd spent every year of my career except the last with Tim learning how he did things and how he wanted the position to be played. It was almost to the point where I felt I could play the position in my sleep."

Last season was not a good one for Clancy, 26, for many reasons. A former third-round pick of the Steelers in 2000, he was suddenly released last Sept. 5 following a calf injury. He had appeared in 42 games with six starts, but the injury forced him to lose time to Chris Hoke, who performed well enough to be the backup for former No. 1 pick Casey Hampton, a Pro Bowl pick in 2003.

"I got hurt in training camp, and when they told me it likely would be a four-week injury, I figured I was going to get cut," said Clancy, who figured to play out his contract then play the free agent market from a position of strength. "I'd been around the game long enough to know how things worked. You can tell when it's over for you.

"So when they finally cut me, I shed a few tears over it. I called my mother to tell her what happened and went home to Alabama and chilled out. Hoke wasn't a bad player. He took his opportunity and ran with it. There was nothing for me to be mad at Coach [Bill] Cowher about. If I was in his [Hoke's] position, I would have taken the opportunity and run with it myself."

Not only was Clancy's career unraveling, but his life was a mess, as well. He said he'd made some ill-advised financial decisions that created a large mess for his family.

"I opened up a little clothing store and worked out when I could," Clancy said. "I had made a few bad decisions in my life along the way with my money, so it [his release] helped me get a grip on things. It was a message from God, I believe, telling me that it was time I got myself together, pay attention to what you're doing and get your life back on track."

Clancy, 6-1, 305 pounds, retreated into his new life without bothering to look back.

"I wasn't even watching football," Clancy said. "All I was doing was jogging to stay in shape. I had no idea about anyone's records or what the hell was going on in the league."

Then events conspired to bring Clancy back. Hampton suffered a right knee injury against the Cowboys shortly before the Steelers' bye week, had surgery and was placed on injured reserve.

Hoke, who had never started a game, was promoted to starter. And the search for depth led the Steelers back to Clancy.

"I had just left Pittsburgh for home when they called me back [he was re-signed Oct. 20]," Clancy said. "Once Casey got hurt I knew they would call me back because I knew the defense."

The Steelers used their week off to help get Clancy back into playing shape. He finally worked himself back into the rotation for a game against the Browns Nov. 14. And he was a regular contributor to the defensive line for the remainder of a season that ended with a loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

"I look at this like a new chance at life. There were times when I was in Pittsburgh that were really depressing. I needed out," Clancy said. "I had already decided that if I ever got another chance to play, I would play each and every play like it was my last. I wasn't going to take advantage of any situation or play. When I got my chance I was going to make a flash, try to be seen."

Apparently, Clancy succeeded because Lewis went to bat for him when it came time to make a decision about his signing.

"Kendrick worked with me in Pittsburgh for four years, so I'm excited about having him and watching him grow," Lewis said. "The defensive tackle position is one I know everyone will key on. We're going to work a number of combinations there. I'm going to try to find the best two guys to go in every time.

"Every practice session there is going to be a different combination working with the first group until we find two that really do a fantastic job and work well together. The defensive tackle position, I'd say, is the one spot that we're looking for people to step up."

So along with William Joseph, Davern Williams, Kenderick Allen, Fred Robbins and Damane Duckett, Clancy will get his second chance to make a big impression on Lewis and Tom Coughlin.

"I moved on and now I'm ready to try and make my mark here with the Giants," Clancy said. "We'll find out. I have no idea what I'll be able to do. Like I made a few mistakes the first day of practice, but I'm past that. All I'm about now is trying to get better all the time. I realize that if I'm ever going to be the type of player I truly want to be, there are a lot of things I'm going to need to do better."

The Giants Beat Top Stories