Q: How do you feel about coming back to New York?
A: I feel great, man. Anytime that anyone has the opportunity to come play for the New York Giants, it's a big deal. Being from the area and growing up 20-30 minutes away from the Meadowlands makes it even more special. The first time I ever put on football pads was in the state of New York. I went to college in the state of New York. To finish up my career here is a special thing.
Q: Have you ever played at Giants Stadium?
A: Yeah, I have. I played against the Giants here I believe once, and the Jets here twice. I definitely have played a few times. Oh, and I played in the Kickoff Classic.
Q: Do you have any particular memories of those games?
A: Yeah. When we played the year that New York went to the Super Bowl against Baltimore, we went into overtime. Steve McNair pulled us through with a quarterback sneak at the end of the game, and that was a big game for us. Actually, for both teams. Kerry Collins, Tiki Barber, and all those guys played well but we were able to come out on top. We won't discuss the Jets right now.
Q: You have friends on both clubs though, right?
A: Yeah, absolutely. When you're in the league for 10 years, you develop friendships and relationships with people not just on the field but off the field. So yeah, definitely.
Q: Any Giant in particular?
A: Close friends, no, but friends and people that I'm familiar with, yes. The first person on my new team that actually greeted me when I was in the parking lot was Brandon Jacobs. Just being from New York, I see him out and about. When I'm home, I spend my offseason here, and we always speak. It's pretty funny because we talked at some point this offseason.
Q: Where exactly, are you talking about Rockland or Manhattan?
A: No. My family still lives in Rockland, like my brothers and my nephews.
Q: What town in Rockland?
A: My brother lives in Haverstraw, and my other brother lives in Spring Valley. I used to have a place on 55th and 2nd, but when I had my daughter, I moved back to Edgewater.
Q: So you're a resident of Edgewater?
Q: And your brothers' names would be...
A: Kelvin Smith and Brian Bulluck.
Q: For a decade now you've been playing weak side. What was it that gave you confidence that you could move from weak side to the middle with the Giants, and what has Perry Fewell said about that?
A: Well, in Tennessee I played both, you know. I'm a linebacker that doesn't come off the field. On first and second down, I would play on the weak side. On third in particular, depending on the offensive set, I'd be in the middle. The last three years I have been playing both outside and inside. I played outside for a year and half at Syracuse. I think, to me, I played right backer in Tennessee. We were always behind the ball. I was never up, stacked on the defensive end or anything. I was always behind the ball. I usually had a shade or a three technique in front of me. The only difference to me I see is more opportunity to make plays. If you just play on one side, you know, then you're that defensive player on your team that they try to scheme you up, to cut off blocks, and run away. In the middle, you can run at me but you can't run away from me. There's not much of a difference to me, man. It's football at the end of the day, and I'm a football player. So just getting acclimated and getting all the reps in the middle or wherever Coach Fewell wants me to play.
Q: Is it any different to be in the middle in the base defense on say first and 10 versus being in their on a passing down?
A: Yeah, absolutely, but that's based on the formations and the offensive set. My film study will help me out a lot when it comes to that. You know, I take on guards and I take on centers. A lot of times when I was at Tennessee, I'm getting blocked by a guard and a center. My work is always cut out for me. I don't think it'll be any different here, and I haven't really even thought twice about it. It was not a matter of me getting confidence to play the middle. Confidence has never been an issue with me when it comes to this game. I think that it's just going to be fun and I'm planning on making a lot of plays. I know you can make a lot of plays from that spot, and Antonio made a lot of plays from that spot. If that's the spot I'm playing, I expect nothing less from myself.
Q: How is the knee?
A: The knee is good, it's getting better. I still have work to do, but I met with two clubs and I saw like five, six, seven doctors in the past few months and they pulled, twisted, and whatever it is they do to try and find something wrong with it. It's one of those things, with the medicine and the way rehabilitation goes these days, it's kind of equivalent to a high ankle sprain. The only people who seem to be worried about my knee are the reporters. My team doctors and my coaches aren't concerned with it. I think that if they were, I wouldn't be having this conversation with you right now.
Q: What knee is that,which is the bad knee, the right knee?
A: My left knee. I don't have a bad knee, I had surgery on my left knee.
Q: When do you expect to be full-go, as in 100% for practice?
A: Right now. The coaching staff and training staff are going to do what they need to do to bring me along. I still have to get into football shape because I haven't been in a camp. I'm in shape to go out and run some gassers and 100s and all that stuff. As far as sideline to sideline, and getting off blocks and getting to the ball, I haven't done that since December. So, it's a matter of getting re-acclimated and getting in football shape. As far as getting full-go, it's up to the coaching staff. I've been told that they're not going to try and kill me in two-a-days. I know from my own personal benefit that when I'm not practicing on the field with my teammates, I'll be doing some other stuff to keep getting my knee stronger and better. Like I said, I'm not 100% right now and I need to get some more strength in my quad, but all that stuff comes. If I were to put a percentage as to where I'm at now, I'd say 90% seven weeks from the first game of the season so you can gauge from there.
Q: How many preseason games would you like to play in if you have the choice playing a new position and being with a new team?
A: I don't know. I wouldn't be playing four full preseason games anyway so I guess it comes down to how many quarters I would play. That is not for me to decide, you know. If Coach Coughlin wants to see me get some work in all four, then I'll be out there getting work in all four. One thing that has gotten me up to this point and allowing me to have played 27 straight games before my injury was hard work. I don't back down from that, and whatever the coaches want me to do. I will gauge how I feel at the same time.
Q: What did the Giants tell you about the middle linebacker position, is it yours to lose?
A: Nah, it's a competition. There are two other guys there, and I'm coming here to compete. In this league, nothing is given to you. So, one thing that I have always loved about this league is that every year you have to come prove yourself. Back in January when I started my rehab, I knew that there was going to be a greater challenge. To be honest, I didn't have to accept the challenge. I played for 10 great years in Tennessee and I just completed a six year deal and I saw every cent of it. Me and my family could have easily just rode off into the sunset and leave it at that. I still have that burning desire to come and play, and prove myself and that I'm one of the best linebackers in the league. You know, that's my challenge. To play for this organization that still has a lot to prove and can win, that's another big reason to come here.
Q: When did the Giants appear on the radar?
A: My agent called me maybe two weeks ago and said I had a workout for the Giants, and I got pretty excited. When they were on my radar, to be quite honest, last year. When Tennessee didn't sign me back at the beginning of the year, I had to eyeball some teams I would like to play for the following year because it gave me a great indication that I wasn't coming back as a Titan. When I got midway through the year, and I was having the year that I was having, and they still didn't show any indication of bringing me back or re-signing me, the big picture came about in my head. So I would say last year, but two weeks ago my agent said I had the workout. I came in, and I did what I had to do.
Q: What about calling the plays in the huddle, making the adjustments before the snap? I'm guessing you did that in Tennessee?
A: Since I've been a starter in this league, I've been the signal caller. I've been the signal caller since my sophomore year in college, and that's what I do. It might be a little unnatural for me not to do that, but if I'm the one with the ear piece, then that's fine, too. Yeah, I am very comfortable with that. That's what I do, and I have to be on the same page as the defensive coordinator. The way I was coached in Tennessee, by Dante Cunningham when I was young, he coached all the linebackers like our meeting rooms were coaching seminars. He coached us in depth and taught us to be in tune with the defensive coordinator. At the same time, the defensive coordinator isn't playing, he is making the calls so you have to anticipate certain things. The mental part of my game will come in a lot, and that will benefit this team a lot.
Q: The Giants need a defensive leader. Do you lead by example or are you a vocal leader?
A: I think I'm maybe a little bit of both. I'm not a rah rah guy. If you just look at my career and the things that I have done on the field and been able to accomplish in this game, that should tell you some things. If you talk to some people in Tennessee, that will you tell you some things. You know, I'm a natural leader. I don't need a ‘C' on my chest to be a leader. The ‘C' is just an indication that you're a captain. Just because you're the captain doesn't mean you are a leader. I'm here to win football games. I'm here to bring some people along with me, and maybe my mentality and attitude will rub off. I'm sure these guys' attitudes and mentalities will rub off on me. I'm a New York Giant, so I need to get acclimated to them. I'll just fit in where I fit in. I'm not coming in to change the culture or anything. I just coming here to get in where I fit in, and the guys who are here already will show me the way.
Q: Any high school coaches who showed you the way?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Coach Tomlin even came down and has been following my career since I left Clarkstown North. Coach Ed Henry, and all those guys. They just retired my jersey back there last year, so I got to see all my old coaches. Coach Tomlin definitely played a part in my high school career when I was younger. There was a time when I was going to transfer, and Coach Tomlin had a talk with a 14 year old that was needed at that time. All those guys get the utmost respect from me.
Q: You keep in contact?
A: It's hard, you know, it's been so long. If they reached out, they know I would be there and vice versa. They are definitely guys who played an influence in my early career, especially being in foster care and not having a father figure. They have been very positive figures.
Q: When you mention family, who might that be?
A: I have two daughters, and their mother.
Q: And their names?
A: I like to keep my personal life personal, you know.
Q: You have two daughters right? Can you say the ages?
A: Man, you're on me huh. Keira is two and a half, and Kenzi is eight months.
Q: Was it the Giants over Arizona because of Edgewater or were there other reasons?
A: There were other reasons. The Giants have more of a solid team, and they didn't lose as many pieces of their puzzle. Arizona just lost a Hall of Fame quarterback, Kurt Warner. They have someone that's not proven. I love their defense and their head coach and their coordinator. I got to meet with both of them and those guys were great. I honestly thought it would be easier to go with New York because of the whole factor that I grew up here. Arizona had a tough bargain. What really took it over the top was when I spoke to Strahan last week. I reached out to him and you know, he was shooting a couple commercials so it took him a couple days to get back to me. When he did, we had a nice 20, 30 minute talk. He shot me straight. I've known Stray for a couple of years now, and even when he was in the league, he was a guy who I kind of watched and I liked the way he went about things on and off the field. He didn't say, ‘Go to the Giants,' or anything like that. He gave me his overview of what he thought was needed and how he felt I would help. He took it back to the year when they won the Super Bowl and how it went. He also talked about the New York media also.
Q: What'd he say about that?
A: Can't tell you that one.
Q: How different is Perry Fewell's system than what you're used to?
A: As soon as I'm done with you guys, I'm going to search him out. You might want to save that question because I don't know right now. I just walked into the building twenty minutes ago so you guys are the greeting committee. Nice to meet you.
Q: What's your contract situation?
A: I signed a one-year deal, but I have a feeling that once we do what we need to do as a team this year and I do what I need to do as a player this year that I'll be back for some years to come.
Q: Talk about some of the personnel on this defense and the challenge of trying to become a top ten defense:
A: Yeah, absolutely. They have talent, and they brought in talent. They brought in Deon Grant and Antrelle Rolle, and they had Osi, Tuck and the guys up front. Michael Boley is a young and up and coming linebacker, and is poised on the outside. As I get familiar with the defense and the personnel, we all have to mesh. We all have to mesh. There are guys who were here last year that may not be happy with the season last year so they feel that they have something to prove. I know this team as a whole has something to prove. For everyone to be talking about Dallas, Washington, and Philadelphia and not talking about Big Blue is absurd. We'll get together as a team when we get up to Albany. As a defense, I'm sure Coach Fewell has plans for us and how he wants us to play and attack. We will definitely put that into play once we get out and onto the practice field next week and continue with it throughout the season. It's a long season, and we will have plenty of time to gel and mesh. I'm just excited that we have the guys we have here, and they want to win. A lot of people here know what it's like to win. They've held that trophy up and they have rings at home that indicate that. No one is happy with just one. The Boston Celitcs said that throughout the playoffs. Ray Allen said it's the first one that's easy, and the second one is the hardest. We might have to get three in my time here.
Q: Any pressure wearing 53, the same number as Harry Carson?
A: No pressure. I know the great Harry Carson wore it. I'm not a pressure type person. I'll be fine, I'll be alright. That's the least of my concerns. I won't disrespect the jersey.
Q: You played with some really talented guys up front in Tennessee, how do they compare with the Giants defensive line?
A: To be honest, I have to learn them. I just got here. I haven't even seen any tape on last year's team and just watched all of the games that the Giants played in last year to learn the personnel. I know it's a new defensive coordinator and a new system, but I can watch how the guys were playing in a big win or a big loss. I was apart of a 59-0 loss, and that tells a lot about football players. I've seen what body language looks like, what people look like when they shut it down. I'm very battle tested. I have been in some big games, and the only game I haven't played in is the Super Bowl. Every other game I have played in, even the hall of fame game. It's just one of those things. Definitely save some of those questions.
Q: Do you think you'll be around when the Super Bowl comes to New York?
A: When is it? 2014? I don't know. By then, I could have already won a ring or two, purchased my horse and rode off into sunset. I don't know.