Way back at the beginning of New York Giants training camp I asked Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger if he would sit down and do a Q&A type conversation with me. After lunch on Thursday, we finally got around to having that little chat.
Sitting on the steps of the UAlbany Colonial Quad just outside the dining hall we talked about Plaxico Burress, the Giants, the blogosphere and some other stuff. That is, in between Mike having to stop to do what I believe was a radio bit and us having to dodge various media types and Giants officials -- and one stray janitor -- meandering up and down the staircase.
Anyway, here is the result of our conversation. I have transcribed it almost exactly as it took place, simply as a conversation. I hope that comes across. I chose not to upload the audio since I don't want MG getting any heat from his bosses. It will run in two parts simply because, as I got into it, I realized we covered a lot of territory in the 10 minutes or so that we talked.
Ed: So, let start with today's news. Get that out of the way. Your reaction to the Plaxico news today?
Mike: As it pertains to the team, or just my reaction?
Ed: Yours, personally.
Mike: It's tough because I know the guy pretty well and it's funny, everybody says that they're surprised at how personable he is, how thoughtful he is and I agree with that. But, there is no excusing what he did. Covering him you come to the realization he's got deep-rooted issues, authority issues, trust issues that he's had for years just because of how he grew up. I think they kinda came to a head. He's gotta deal with those now, and the way it went down you just hope that he's learned his lesson and that he's able to deal with these issues. I'll tell you this. I've covered guys before that tell me that 'I never carry a gun. My guys around me that I've known since I was a kid, they want to carry a gun that's fine. But, something goes down 'hey, I didn't have it on me.' He would never be that guy because he could never trust anybody to do that. I'm not saying by the way that I'm recommending that. What I'm saying is that when you don't have that kind of trust and you can't trust a club to provide its own security, all that kind of stuff you carry a gun yourself these are the consequences.
Ed: Right. It's interesting. I talked to Jason Cole about him about a year ago and he basically said the same thing ... he's got deep-rooted trust and security issues.
Mike: Yeah, Jason got to know him well because of the book he got to write with him, and got to really see those and explore those. So, yeah, that doesn't surprise me.
Ed: So, let's turn the page. Let's talk about this camp. You know I've been here quite a bit, not as much as you have. To me the two most impressive rookies that I've seen out here are Clint Sintim and Ramses Barden. Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?
Mike: Let me go through the list of rookies and make sure nobody else has stood out ... I do agree with that. I do agree with that. And to be honest we haven't seen enough of Sintim as a pass rusher in camp. We didn't get to see that until the game, and he showed you that with limited time working at end and working on technique he was still able to get after the quarterback.
Ed: Looks like something he just does naturally.
Mike: It's exactly what it is. I talked to a couple of people around the team and they think that he's got so much natural pass ability they'll work on technique, they'll work on little moves here and there. But, the one thing I'm hearing is that they don't want to do too much with him. They'll teach him the little tricks here and there, but you don't want to get him thinking about the technical aspects of it, at least not early on. You want him to just get in there, use his speed, use the moves that come naturally to him, which is that quick rip that he showed the other night ... the club and rip, and just not try and do too much and slow himself down.
Ed: And learn to play linebacker at the same time.
Mike: Well, that's the same thing. He's learning to play linebacker ... a different kind of linebacker, because he's playing a little bit off the ball than he did in college so you don't want to confuse that with what he's learning as a pass rusher.
(At this point Mike had to take a phone call. When he finished we resumed our chat).
Ed: So ... we talked about the rookies a little bit. Umm ... anything or anyone else here in camp that's really surprised you?
Mike: Derek Hagan. I still want to see more when the lights go on. Umm ... because I thought in the game that he was going to play a bigger role, and it wound up that he didn't, but, you know he was -- I don't want to say the forgotten man. When we had access to them in the spring he didn't have a monster spring so you just kind of though well, you know what, he's just kind of hanging on here and he's not gonna make it through. But when he showed up here he started to make plays, he started to go up and get balls when he was wrestling a defender he was coming away with it and showing his speed, showing his leaping ability. It reminds you, OK, that's right he's got third-round talent. That's why he was drafted in the third round. That's been the big surprise there.
I want to give you one on the other side of the ball. Let me think about that ... Jay Alford I'd say has been a surprise, a pleasant surprise. Another guy that maybe we counted out a little too early as soon as they signed Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty. But, honestly, Jay I talked to him early in camp and he said he thought the same thing and he wanted to kinda go and talk to the general manager, talk to the front office and say 'hey, what's going on here?' but realized that you can't do that. He's been impressive, he's been in the backfield. He worked with Osi this off-season about jumping the snap count and that kind of stuff. He's been a pleasant suprise, he's a guy that actually translated it to the game because he was in the backfield in the game as well.
Ed: You mentioned Hagan. That also leads me to David Tyree. Umm ... you know people keep asking me on my site if Tyree can actually make this team. In a way it's the same for Hagan. I keep going over it and over it and I can't really see how the numbers will work out for either one of them.
Mike: Yeah, it's gonna come down to whether or not they keep seven for those guys, I think. Tyree's shot is on special teams, no question. If they really can't find enough special teams help elsewhere then he's gonna have to be the guy they hang onto, but to be honest I think that they've drafted with special teams in mind over the last couple of years and Terrell Thomas is a guy that we saw as a gunner last year. Did a tremendous job, made a play in the Eagles game saving the ball and keeping it in at the 1-yard line. So, that hurts Tyree's chances. Much as I think he's been under-used as a receiver here I think his biggest value is on special teams. I don't think you need to hold onto him for that when you have needs elsewhere at that position.
Ed: Right. Certainly, if he makes this team he's the last receiver on the list.
[NOTE: Part II Saturday morning. We will discuss the growth of non-traditional media, and whether or not this will be the last time the Giants hold camp in Albany.]