A Conversation with Sean Bennett

‘I'm not taking it as a slight. I'm using it as motivation to work harder.'

The Giants and their fans had high hopes for Sean Bennett as the 2002 season began. Bennett, the club's fourth-round pick in 1999, was back for a second stint with Big Blue after missing two seasons due to injury. His size, speed and hands made him quite an intriguing selection out of Northwestern, and the main reason Big Blue re-signed him this off-season. Those qualities also make Bennett, who barely played as a running back this year, qualified for his new role on the club – wide receiver. Here's what number 20 had to say about his new lease on Giants life.

Q: What are your thoughts on moving to receiver?
A: I welcome the change. Coach Fassel came up to me and just put it to me, and asked me if I could make the switch. I said ‘yes, anything to help the team win.' It's going well so far. There are some things I need to get better at and improve on, but the transition hasn't been that hard. It's not like I'm moving from guard or defensive tackle. I've been out there in space before. It's just a matter of learning the routes. Some of the routes are the same but there are some different ones too.

Q: Have you forgotten you were a receiver in practice yet and run a play like you were still a running back?
A: There have been some times. Especially when we're doing one-on-ones with the cornerbacks. It's totally different running a route on a corner than on a linebacker or a safety. It's a lot easier for me to run one on a linebacker or a safety, just because I can out-quick them or set them up differently. Corners are quicker than I am, especially now while I'm still feeling my way through things. They have that advantage now so I have to work on some different strategies to get them off-balance.

Q: Obviously there are some similarities and some differences. Can you estimate about how much playing the two positions is the same for you?
A: It's between 25 and 50 percent similar. Especially due to the spot I was playing as a running back. I was used to being out in space. I was used to being split out wide or in the backfield running routes. The route part, there's not that much to it. It's more running the route off different personnel. That's the biggest adjustment that I've had to make.

Q: What type of things do you do differently to get free from a corner, as opposed to a linebacker?
A: You just have to be quicker off the ball. You have to come off the ball with a plan. When I was running off a linebacker, I'd just get him off-balance and then make my break one way or the other. The corners have been playing their whole life and have seen so much in practice every day and I just made the switch. Our corners are so good to begin with, and they've had extra practice covering Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Ron Dixon and Tim Carter. They're so good at running routes and I'm still just a novice. They've been able to read where I'm going to cut. I've been working on trying to make every route seem the same until I make my ultimate break. If I can make everything look similar until I can get them off-balance, I'll be all right.

Q: You were a receiver in high school, correct?
A: Yes. That comes in handy now. Obviously with so much time having passed – I was a running back all through college and since I've been in the pros – it doesn't come right back to you, but it certainly has helped. The more I practice the position, the more it comes back to me.

Q: When you were drafted, all the talk was about your speed and your hands. Those are also important traits for a receiver, right?
A: It kind of makes sense. I'm bigger than the average receiver. My quickness and hands are similar to the receivers out there now. I've been trying to use my size as an advantage, especially when the corners are using bump and run or playing press, I can push off them easier. But there are some disadvantages. As a bigger body, I'm obviously easier to jam at the line. But that's where my quickness comes into play.

Q: How shocked were you when Fassel came and told you he wanted you to switch?
A: I was shocked at first. I was kind of disappointed because I felt like I still had some strides to make at running back and I wanted to improve there and concentrate on that. But like I said, I was willing to do whatever to help the team out.

Q: Is this a permanent move?
A: I'm not sure. I'm just going week-by-week.

Q: Did you take their decision as an insult or a compliment?
A: I'm seeing it as a compliment really. It's an opportunity to show them what I can do. I can do more things than just play running back. This will help me work on getting off the ball, using my quickness and concentrating on my hands. So if I do ultimately switch back to running back, that will help.

Q: As a receiver, will you be able to wear number 20 in a game?
A: I guess it's just what they list me as. If I'm listed as a receiver, I'd have to put on an ‘80' number. But if I'm still listed as a running back, then I should be fine.

Q: How disappointing has this season been to you?
A: It's been tough. I was rustier than I thought I'd be after missing two years off. I was disappointed in that aspect. But I've been making improvement and strides every week. I'm happy with that. I just have to keep working hard to improve and then I'll get to where I want to be.

Q: Did you think you'd get more playing time as a running back?
A: I wasn't coming in with any expectations or goals, just because I wasn't here the past couple years. I didn't know if it would be the way it was or if they'd have a new role for me. During training camp, I was getting the time during the game. I needed that just to get back in the flow of things. I knew I wasn't going to get that much time in the regular season. There are so many weapons here and just one ball to go around. That's just the way things have worked out. I'm not taking it as a slight. I'm using it as motivation to work harder.

Q: Was it a big surprise to be deactivated against the Eagles?
A: I was kind of surprised, but I also kind of saw it coming. My playing time was getting less and less each week, so I guess I wasn't that surprised. I guess they wanted to go in a different direction. As an athlete and a competitor, you want to be out there. When they take that opportunity away, it's disappointing.

Q: Finally, how are things going for your wife, Shelley, the actress?
A: She's in California right now. She's been flying in for the home games. She's out there working on her craft. Even since Sept. 11, most of the work moved out to the west coast. She's out there trying to get things going. She's gotten a couple small things, but nothing big yet. It'll come. Once the off-season comes I'll head out there.


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