During an impromptu and entertaining 15-minute interview with a small group of reporters under a canopy outside the cafeteria at Giants training July 30, Shockey confirmed he's very much the same guy who rolled into town in 2002 as a brash rookie.
"What's different about me? I'm 25 years old and the staff [on the Giants] is different. But I haven't changed, even though I'm older," Shockey said. "You learn new things every day. I try to, good or bad, and you move on. This is my fifth year and it feels like only two. It's amazing how quickly time goes. But I don't think I've changed at all. My mentality is still the same. I don't think you'll see me smiling when I come off the field if I drop a ball."
What's also true is that Shockey, whose outspoken nature has often gotten him into hot water, is not afraid to answer questions honestly, pointedly and sometimes confusingly.
When asked how long he felt he'd play, Shockey said he thought 10 years sounded good, as long as he continued to take care of himself.
"I'm going to give it awhile. I won't put a set number on it," Shockey said. "I'll play as long as I can by making sure I take care of my body. Everyone knows here that I drink and party. But I take multi-vitamins every day. I get acupuncture and massages. I use hyperbaric chambers. I do a ton of things to take care of my body.
"If I do a lot of drinking one night I guarantee that I'll totally replenish the next day with water and all the other stuff. I respect my body. I even eat organic foods in the off-season. Maybe I'll get finer with age, like wine. Who knows?"
When asked why he feels he can become a better player – he's made the Pro Bowl in three of his first four seasons – Shockey admitted to having some difficulty in the past adjusting to Tom Coughlin's system and personality.
"It's all about the system," Shockey said. "Jim Fassel [the former Giants coach] and Ernie Accorsi [the GM] brought me here and Jim sat me down and said we're going to make it easy for you. You don't have to run the routes like they do in the books. You do what you see. Things are a little different [under Coughlin].
"They want you to do exactly what's in the [playbook], which I understand. The quarterback [Eli Manning] was young. With Kerry Collins, coach Fassel and Sean Payton [the former offensive coordinator] just let me go out there and play so I didn't have to think about the little bitty things. Catch the ball, turn it up and run. It's football. That system was a little more lenient [to his style]. They had option routes, which we don't have here. I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just saying that's what it was like.
"But we're almost there now. There are some new things [Coughlin's staff] have put in. It's an easy adjustment when you have a coach who wants to win. He [Coughlin] can be an ass sometimes, but that's what you want your coach to be. . .You need a leader who makes people listen and let's them know if they don't they'll be in trouble. We have a coach – and a staff – who puts us in the best situation to win every game, every year. That's the important part."
Shockey also threw a curveball, saying at one point that his swollen right hand was broken, then saying it wasn't. He's committed to improving and is still working on taming his temper, which he says is triggered by frustration.
"I can get faster, stronger, run routes better and catch the ball better," Shockey said. "I can also not look so negative when I come off the field if I don't catch a ball. It's hard. I'm a competitor. In high school I used to try and bite my tongue or my lip off, bleed everywhere [if he failed]. Now at least I understand there will be another play.
"It's hard when you know you can make a play and don't get a chance. I need to be more patient, that's still my biggest downfall. I'm like that in life, too. I like to get into things quick, get the fans into it quick, do something to get the spark going and get the defense thinking. I try to put energy into people. A lot of people don't have a lot of it. I do. God gave me that gift so I do what I can to make people excited. That's what I've done on every team I've played on."
Shockey said he's talked to Manning about how his antics on the field might be misinterpreted.
"Eli knows how competitive I am," Shockey said. "I'm not doing it in a negative way [to show up the quarterback]. I'm doing it to myself. I get frustrated a lot and I'm very hard on myself in general. Sometime it's the call, sometime it's the play, sometime it's the coverage. Three guys on the tight end pisses me off. Coach [tight end coach Mike Pope] tells me I should smile when they double team. Well, [expletive] no. I want to punch somebody. I want to make a play. He says it's a compliment. I think it's a slap in the face.
"If we win and I don't catch balls I'll be happy. If we're not winning, and I feel I could have had the chance to help the team win, that's when I get upset. If you're competitive you'll get mad in situations like that. It's like Plaxico Burress, for instance. People were making a big deal about how he acts in those situations. Would you rather he just walks off the field or come back with an AK-47 or something?"
And perhaps most insightful of all, Shockey admitted that he's at his best when the pressure is on him.
"All that stuff that was written and said about me was blown out of proportion. It didn't affect me at all," Shockey said. "In fact, I believe I played better when I had controversy [around him] off the field. Go ahead and write that. I don't believe I've settled down. I was new to the area, to the media, to New York. Everything I did was under a microscope. It was over-reported, if you ask me.
"But now y'all know me, what I'm about. It's all about winning, not necessarily talking to you guys [the media], which I know makes you mad sometimes. I want to win. I've won championships in high school and college and I want one here."
* * *
A day later, Coughlin seemed unconcerned with Shockey's comments, including one in which he noted how tough the coach could be.
"I don't know, my wife has called me that a few times," Coughlin said. "I looked at it when I saw the headlines and I don't really think that he was trying to disrespect me. As I said, I've been called worse."
The more things change…
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