Re: What it is going to feel like to be a Giant
A: I'm already a Giant. So…..we are there – I'm being one.
Q: How excited are you about it?
A: I'm real excited, just having the opportunity to have a new beginning. I think this is a great situation. There is no substitute for great players, and obviously great coaches, and a great organization. So I found that…
Q: How difficult will it be for you to play for a team that you played against for so many years?
A: I had a lot of battles with a lot of these guys in this locker room. And there is a mutual respect. So I am aware of a lot of guys in here. So I think it lessens it a little bit, just being familiar with guys. So I think it is a great situation. Like I said, I know exactly what type of situation that I am stepping into.
Q: How wanted do you feel and how unwanted did you feel at the end in Washington?
A: I think it is a dead issue. I think that that issue has been revisited, in ways, more often than it should be. I think that I am so excited about being a Giant now and being in this city and being able to bring what I am going to bring to this organization and to this community. So that is what I am focused on. It is such a dead issue.
Q: Brandon Short and Antonio Pierce – former teammates of yours – say that you are really focused now. What does that mean?
A: I have been focused my whole career personally. If that is what the general perception is, then that's cool. But I will say I have matured a whole lot more than what I have been in the past, just from the standpoint of really taking time to pay attention to the detail of every single thing I am doing. Which, I think will, in the end, prove to make me a better player.
Re: Playing the Redskins twice a year
A: It will be fun. I think my best football is ahead of me. So to have the type of guys on this team and to bring what I know I can bring to the table, any team is going to be fun to play against. But obviously, playing against your old team, your former team, that has a little bit more meaning, personally.
Q: How stressful was the delay in getting the contact and really what were, in your mind, the top three factors in coming to the Giants?
A: I think you guys were more stressed out than I was. I was just taking my time through the process. I was going through the whole thing from a very critical standpoint. I think so many times people rush into things. Obviously I got caught in a situation where I was rushing and I made a decision that ultimately made me a free agent in the end. But I just felt like, with every decision that I make now, I just take my time. And it doesn't matter if people are getting restless or want to speculate whatever they want to speculate. At the end of the day I have to make the right decision for me and my family. And we just took out time trying to figure out what was the best decision and what were the best circumstances and best situation for us to step into. And that, hopefully, should take a little bit of time. Nobody goes and buys a house in one day – maybe Donald Trump -….. We are in New York. But no, seriously, nobody makes big decisions – huge decisions – you shouldn't without being very critical of what you are getting yourself into.
Q: You mentioned we are in New York. You know why you are obviously not wearing 56. What are your thoughts on being on a team with the tradition that this team has at linebackers?
A: Well, for so long that is who people were likening me to, was LT. Just to have the opportunity to be in the same locker room as that guy – it is unbelievable. That was one of the first things I saw when I came here was his retired locker. So I never ask to wear 56, nor would I. The only way I would wear 56 is if LT himself came to me and said, ‘You know what, guy, I want you to wear 56.' That would be the only way that I would end up wearing the 56 number here. But I have the utmost respect for him. I have always admired his game. Fifty-five is cool. Just call me Mr. Nickels.
Q: What about the defensive system here ? Will this system suit you?
A: I believe so. Tim Lewis is Pennsylvania guy like myself and a Pittsburgh protégé. So the things that I grew up learning and feeling like were …. Of my game, the way I modeled my game and patterned my game after was Greg Lloyd's and the Kevin Green's and Chad Brown's and all of those guys. Tim Lewis was around those same guys. He brings that very intense, very aggressive approach to playing defense. So we have very similar backgrounds in our schools of thought and philosophy. So I think it will be a good fit.
Q: Does it annoy you at all, that you hear from Washington that they say, ‘you freelanced too much,' etc? What does that actually mean?
A: It is not surprising. This is the NFL. Nobody makes it in the NFL just freelancing. People have always had their opinions one way or the other. I just try and play past it. I try not to give it too much attention. I don't know what freelancing means. I try my best to fit into whatever it is that I am being taught. I am a very coachable individual. I think I am a pleasant individual to be around. So where all of those things got started I have no idea. Maybe it is the style of play where, even if I am on one side of the field, I have an opportunity, if I see the player, and I analyze it, I am going to go make it. At times it worked; at times it doesn't. So maybe that is where it came from. I don't know. But I am out there giving 100%. My motor is running and I am trying to help the team win. I am trying to do the best that I can to create a winning effort.
Q: The breakthrough with the Giants seemed to be when you came in to take that physical. Whose decision was it for you to take the physical for the Giants and exactly what were the two knee surgeries for when you were in Washington?
A: They were scopes. Not ACL, not reconstructive. They were scopes; scopes; arthroscopic surgeries. I got a little bit of cartilage cleaned out of my knee. That is what it was. This is not, ‘He's washed up.' This isn't, ‘Gee, he'll never be able to run again.' If you watched the film from the end of last year, I thought I was pretty impressive, actually. And that was with very limited play time. That is what the two surgeries were for. I did not take the physical the first time because I had my family with me and we were on a trip before then where I took a seven-hour physical. So I don't know how you guys spend your days and your time, but a seven-hour physical, I felt like, at the time that was where I was going to sign a contact was with the Miami Dolphins. And there was nothing that had been done. So it was kind of like my frame of thought and my family's thought was, if the franchise is serious then I will take a physical. So you can only know if you are serious or not by visiting with one another. We liked each other. Let's get a physical and move on with it. It wasn't like I had anything to hide or anything like that. It was just – it was a matter of – they might not have liked me. I might not have liked the situation. There is no reason to spend seven hours during the course of the day getting touched on, and stabbed and stuck with needles and different things like that; all for, like what? It's like going to a nice home just for a walk through. You have no intentions on buying the home but you just took your time and walked through it and saw all of the rooms. You liked it, but, "I don't plan on buying it. I just enjoyed it." So I didn't feel like taking a seven-hour physical. Which, it turned out to be a very good experience. It wasn't a long physical, at all, when I came. So it was good. It got done and everything checked out. And that was when we got down to business and really felt like this is a good fit, so let's try to make it happen.
Q: Do you feel comfortable being a component of this defense when the bookend defensive ends kind of set the tone for this group?
A: Well, I will say this, when I was at Penn State, which I would probably say was the last time that I was around a group of guys that meshed well together and just had great talent. I figured that was why I was able to be such a play maker that I was, was because no one person just goes out and is that guy. You have to have a great corps of guys. So in looking at personnel of teams I looked at Jacksonville and they had those real strong defensive tackles. I felt like, well, that could be a good situation. And I looked here. And I know that Antonio and I have a lot of history together. And obviously I am comparing Penn State so Brandon Short is a part of that equation. Having one of the greatest defensive ends in the game and the up and coming talent in Osi, that is what I do, I come off of the edge. That is when I am at my best. And to have guys like that where, ‘Who are you going to block?' that is when I am at my best – when there are guys that are on that caliber, on that level, are out there on the field. There is no mistake in talent.
Q: Do you think you can thrive in this system?
A: I know I can thrive in this system. This is going to be a re-birth. I think it is going to be really exciting because it is a great defensive scheme. And it has some really good players. We added a shutdown corner and a good solid player in R.W. (McQuarters) and Will Demps; he is a head-hunter. So putting all of those pieces in place, it is going to create a lot of excitement with this defensive unit.
Q: Nobody has ever doubted your ability, but now there are questions. How do you feel about that?
A: People are talking, man. I look at it like this, people take the time to try and state their opinions about me quite often. Whether it be positive; whether it be negative. So it must mean that I am doing something that is right. Or people wouldn't be saying anything at all. So I am doing something that is right. Obviously, I just think in this situation, I'll have an opportunity to put it in a light where it can't be denied. And that is my whole focus. There have been up and down years where I played before. So you could say, ‘Well, he's overrated or this and that, because the team didn't want him. ‘ Because ultimately that is how people are judged. But this situation, we'll wait and see in the end how people rule on it. Because this team is going to win and it is going to be an exciting time. And I'm just happy to be a part of it.
Q: You obviously know the Giants. What is your impression of this team?
A: I think they are talented. I think it is a very talented team and I think that any time you have a group of guys that are as dangerous as they are, with Eli being an up and coming talent and Plaxico being just a threat – he's always a threat. Shockey, other than Howard Cross, and I'm not saying this because I'm a New York Giant, but Howard Cross is probably the best technician at tight end that I have ever had to go up against. He actually helped me to raise my game. But I think Shockey has probably been the toughest tight end for me to have to deal with my whole career at whatever level. Tiki came out of nowhere. I remember the early years when I played against Tiki. He's not the same type of back. It's like that movie – the boxer with Russell Crowe ("Cinderella Man") – he's not the same guy running the ball. It's not the same guy running the ball over the last few years. Whatever he has been doing it's been working. He has been having some awesome results. So having those things in place; having a good steady O-line in place, and plugging in little holes that you need to plug in – they have always been a dangerous team and always had that potential. They obviously went to the Super Bowl not too long ago. And have made moves toward getting back, being the division champ. They fizzled a little bit in the playoffs, but that is why you bring guys like me in so that you make sure that doesn't happen again.
Q: How does it feel to have Antonio Pierce push for you so hard?
A: AP is my baby, man. I've had AP since his rookie season. So we've got a lot of history together. We have been through some wars together. And I know there are very few people that know me as well as Antonio knows me, and vice versa. So it wasn't a surprise because I know the mentality that AP has and the mentality that I have. It is a natural fit. We are a lot alike in a lot of ways. So to have the opportunity to get in here and play with him again, I think it is awesome. And I think it is awesome that he stepped up to plate for me like that.
Q: How do you handle the pressure that is going to be on you from the fans?
A: Pressure? I'm motivated. Pressure is good. I'm motivated, though. So you guys are going to get what you are looking for, maybe a little bit more.
Re: getting a fresh start
A: I feel rejuvenated. I just feel really good. I didn't know that you could feel this comfortable. Not taking any sides or anything, just a personal assessment, I didn't know that you could step into a building – a football building – and feel this. Feel like it is all football. And that is what I feel the minute I come into this building. Everybody is speaking to one another. People treat each other like men and women. And this is an adult-oriented place and that wasn't my reality for so long. So now being in a situation where it is football. It is not about anything else. It is not about politics or anything like that. It is strictly football. I feel great, man. It feels really good. I'm looking forward to coming to work. I'm excited.
Q: Is there a weight that you want to play at? Do you want to be lighter?
A: I will probably lose some more. I didn't run last year; I just lifted, so I got strong physically, but I didn't run that much. So I will probably get to 250-249.
Q: What do your weigh now?
Re: returning to the form of 2001-2003
A: I was playing some pretty good football up until I got injured. Honestly I felt like it was a good start getting back to that and exceeding that once they started playing me. It was just a matter of where it was going to happen. And I think any time you are around a job for so long, this will be my seventh year in the NFL, so if you don't learn during the course of seven years, to be a better player…Physically I am in the prime of my career. So with that being said, with the wisdom that have, having a new beginning, being in a system where I am wanted and I'll be used, I can see myself exceeding what I have accomplished thus far.
Re: watching Lawrence Taylor
A: I watched LT a lot. But see, I'm a fan of the game. So I've watched so many. LT was one of the focal points. My father used to always say I was built like Eric Dickerson. So I was kind of looking at Eric Dickerson more than I was looking at anybody else. But then you are from Pittsburgh, so you pay attention to defense. That is what you watch. Dwight White; I always talk about Dwight White – he was one of my neighbors growing up. He was like a mentor to me outside of my father. You just grew up thinking defense. So you had to see LT, you had to see Mike Singletary. I'm great friends with Sam Huff. He still remains my close friend. All of the names – Nitchke, Butkus, Singletary, all of those guys. I always talk about the whole Steelers squad – the whole Steel Curtain. So I love defense. A defensive player has an opportunity to take his destiny in his own hands. So anytime you are watching defense you have to look at LT. Get some pointers…. See what you can do.
Re: being a leader on a new team
A: I'm just going to play. Whatever comes about comes about. I'm not coming in here saying, ‘What are you guys doing? Get yourself together.' I think there is a great corps of guys in this locker room, some very established individuals. So whatever I am called upon to do, I'll just be the utility guy. Those things are earned. You obviously don't approach people and let them know, ‘Well, I'm your leader.' I'm going to just work my tail off.
Q: In talking to Antonio and even your agent, they said that part of your decision in coming here was being able to play in this market. How much of that factored in your decision?
A: It is a big market. But to be honest, it came down to here and Green Bay. And Green Bay is not a big market.
Q: Outside of that, now that you are here though, is this an added bonus for you?
A: Any time you have coverage like this it is a bonus if you doing something good. It could be a negative if you are not. Hopefully you guys will write good things about me and talk good about me. Unless I give you guys a reason not to. ….. Sometimes – I didn't come from a small media market. So I know there are positives and negatives anytime you are in a big media market. You are going to have sides split up. Some people are going to love LaVar, some people are going to hate LaVar. So hopefully the most influential people will be LaVar fans in New York.
Re: the contract he got from the Giants
A: Let me tell you, I run my show. Agents don't run the show. Kevin and Carl have been wonderful throughout this whole process. But I still run my show. I'm the captain of my ship. And not one time did I put an offer on the table for ….. So all of the speculation and rumors and things that were flying about, ‘LaVar wants the same deal as Julian' and all of that other stuff couldn't be more untrue. I told every team that I visited whatever you feel is fair, at the end of the day, after you have met me, after you have talked with me, after we have talked football, whatever you feel is fair, you put that on the table and it's up to me to sit down with my representation and figure out if we feel that it's fair. And then that is negotiating. Then you said, ‘I think fair is a little bit here.' They said, ‘Well, okay we can budge and move a little there.' And that is negotiating. And that was the whole process. There was never a time when I was like, ‘I want a Julian deal or I'm not coming… .' When I was asked, or when Kevin or Carl were asked about, ‘Well what are you looking for, can you give us some type of mark or something?' If we are going to give you a mark, we are obviously are going to give ….. We spoke about John Abraham and Julian Peterson. But by no means did we say, ‘Well, this is what I demand.'
Re: earning the maximum out of the contract
A: I'm planning on playing, man. Look man, I'm not a prima dona. I'm here to whoop somebody's ass. I'm trying to go get as much of it as I can. That is what I'm here for. I'm not here sit to out; I'm not here to watch. I'm going to stick my face in the sand. I'm not afraid of the contact; I'm not afraid of the work. That is what I'm here for. At the end of the day when we came up with the contract conditions and different things like that, I don't have a problem with it. I think it is fair. And I think it was a great thing for us to come together and really do business the way that we did. Because, obviously, I have been a part of good contracts, but the things that went along with the contract weren't very good at all. So it is always a give and take. The give and take here was very positive. I'm excited about it. I don't have to look back over my shoulder during – I don't feel like there is any deception involved. It has just been a straight forward, straight up process the whole time. Plus Ernie is a Penn Stater, so he takes care of us.