Major Impact

It wasn't the intention of safety Will Demps, one of the Giants' key free agent signings, to purposely flatten Jeremy Shockey when the two converged over the middle in the most significant play of training camp so far.

But that's often what happens in football when two physical forces have the same goal in mind and choose the same route.

"I was going for the ball," Demps said. "I'm sorry to see what he went through, but it's just football."

Shockey suffered a mild concussion in the collision that temporarily left him sprawled and then sidelined him for the first preseason game against the Ravens.

When he finally rose he gestured angrily at Demps, the end of an emotional practice during which the tight end twice threw his helmet.

"I tried to explain things to him," Demps said. "If he said some things to me, well, it's just Shockey [being Shockey]. Anytime you play football with emotion, and he's a very emotional guy, you have to understand that. He was trying to catch the ball. I'm glad he's on my side."

The play perfectly illustrated an early point about Demps, something Shockey later admitted after he'd had the time to think about things. He is exactly the kind of hitter the Giants need in the secondary.

"After the first couple of practices [this summer] he was disappointed with the way he was playing, but I think it was just about his comfort level," Giants safety Gibril Wilson said. "Will and I need to establish ourselves as big hitters. We need to establish an identity that if you come across the middle you're going to get knocked out. That's the goal we're striving for – not knocked down, knocked out."

Demps signed with the Giants after spending four years with the Ravens, who signed him as an undrafted free agent out of San Diego State.

"He's another guy that's only known one system his entire career," said Peter Giunta, the Giants secondary coach. "Will was a walk-on in college and a free agent in the NFL. This is a chance for him to prove to everyone that he's a very good player. We're expecting him to take advantage of the opportunity he will have."

Demps' biggest moment in Baltimore was his interception and franchise postseason record 56-yard touchdown return of a Steve McNair pass in a 2003 AFC Wild Card Game. Ironically, McNair is now the starting quarterback in Baltimore.

He said he received voice mails before the Giants opened the preseason in Baltimore on Aug. 11 from several of his Ravens friends, including quarterback Kyle Boller, tight end Todd Heap and Ed Reed, his former partner at safety.

Most wanted to know how he was feeling because Demps is recovering from a right ACL tear suffered at Cincinnati Nov. 27, which forced him to miss the final five games of the season.

He had not played until his cameo appearance in Baltimore and he's still not fully recovered so the coaching staff is closely monitoring his practice time.

"I'm hungry and I feed off adversity and now people are saying that I might not be as good [as advertised] because I was a part of a good defense [in Baltimore]," Demps said. "If I wasn't that good they could have always replaced me. I've been in the league for four years, made a little mark, now I'm interested in taking it to a new level with the Giants. My knee is fine and the only limitations I expect to have is when Tom [Coughlin] tells me I can't practice."

Demps is an interesting guy, the son of an African-American father and Korean mother who lived a portion of his life in Korea until he was in eighth grade. He speaks the language. He also has many diverse interests, including modeling and acting and he knows he's landed in a city that can help him forward both career aspirations.

"Demps is a physical guy," Ravens receiver Devard Darling said before Demps returned to Baltimore for the Giants preseason game there Aug. 11. "He's a pretty boy off the field, but he can bring it on the field."

Demps, who has his own website – his initials spelled out in Asian-themed typeface – isn't interested right now in putting off-the-field aspirations ahead of football.

"What's available to me in New York off the field was the icing [for signing]," Demps said. "The opportunity to play on a prestigious team like the New York Giants was a big plus for me. It's one of the oldest franchises in the league, great tradition, won Super Bowls. There's so much history here you could spend the entire day talking about it. If you get the chance to play football in New York once in your lifetime you should take advantage of it.

"I did a [music] video last spring [for LeToya's chart-topping album] but right now it's all about football for me. I don't want anything to interfere with my meeting or study time. Maybe in the offseason I'll look into acting or something. I'm not even going to live in Manhattan. I'm going to live in Jersey."

Demps is also excited about the evolving defense, of which he's now a major part.

"We're young here and we're talented," Demps said. "I've seen a lot during my four years in Baltimore and hopefully I can bring some of that here. Then it will be a matter of feeding off each other. I think we all need to understand that we can be playmakers.

"Having a pass rush like we have only helps the defense get more turnovers, but it helps the offense because it will be on the field more as a result. Sometimes things don't always happen as you might expect in football. You should stop the offense on third down and in the red zone. You should eliminate big plays. But I see a lot of potential in this defense to do all those things.

"What the Giants do is very different than what Baltimore ran, but that's OK because there are so many ways you can go away from it. All the Ravens did was run Cover-2 or Cover-3 defenses and played football. They had the big horses up front [on the defensive line] and went at you. They communicated well and everything depended on going out and doing your job the right way. I'm not saying this defense can be as good as that one was, but it's certainly something to strive for. You need to look at the defenses that had success in the Super Bowl and what it was about them that made them good."

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