With the New York Giants having released linebacker Michael Boley earlier this week, opportunity is knocking for Spencer Paysinger, who will be entering his third season in 2013. It's an opportunity Paysinger found out about from Boley himself.
"It actually caught me by surprise," Paysinger said Friday afternoon. "I had just gotten done working out and I looked at my phone and saw a missed call from Boley. I thought nothing of it."
Until he called Boley back, that was. Paysinger said the veteran linebacker chatted pleasantly for about 10 minutes before dropping the news that he was being cut by the Giants.
"At the end he just said 'I want you to start taking care of the linebackers' and I said 'what are you talking about?' He said ‘The Giants are releasing me today.' "
"He said ‘I want you to capitalize on this opportunity because it could potentially be your time.' "
Paysinger, 24, made the team in 2011 as an undrafted free agent from Oregon.
"It's definitely a big opportunity for me. The fact that Boley's gone, it's definitely sad, but now there's no going back. We have to keep moving forward," Paysinger said. "I just want to use what he taught me and my progression over these next couple of months to hopefully get a starting spot."
Paysinger played in all 16 games last season, starting three and totaling 137 defensive snaps. Including his work on special teams, Paysinger had 39 tackles (27 solo).
The common perception prior to free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft would be that Paysinger and Jacquian Williams, a sixth-round pick in 2011, will compete for the job vacated by Boley. At first blush it would seem that Williams, who has five starts over two seasons and played more than double the snaps Paysinger did in 2012 would be the favorite for the job. Paysinger, now a solid 245 pounds after entering the league at 234, is not worrying about the competition.
"I don't really think of it as a competition between us. When myself, Jacquian, Mark (Herzlich) and Greg (Jones) came in two years ago we all sat down and the older guys told us even though it's a competition, even though it is the NFL and spots are limited don't make it a competition between each other. As long as everybody knows their job make that the coach's decision," Paysinger said.
"I'm not going out there saying I need to outplay Jacquian, which I do know I have to. I just have to make sure I know I'm doing the best that I can."
Paysinger talked about how this off-season is different than the last one for another reason. A year ago, of course, the Giants were celebrating a Super Bowl. This year they cleaned out their lockers the day after the regular season ended, something that Paysinger said left a "sour taste" in his mouth.
"I can't really pinpoint one key aspect as to why we didn't play up to par compared to two seasons ago," Paysinger said. "One thing I can say is that through my view of the defense and the team in general I felt we were chasing a ghost. We were trying to re-create our Super Bowl run."
Paysinger said he sensed players waiting for the late-season magic "to kick in instead of going after it and creating it."
"What guys need to understand is that's its own entity. The Super Bowl run was magical, something I will never forget, but that's where it ends right there. Now it's time to create a new formula," Paysinger said.
The 2014 Super Bowl is at the home of the Giants -- MetLife Stadium. No NFL team has ever played in a Super Bowl on its home field. Could the Giants be the first? Paysinger knows there will be a lot of talk about that throughout next season, but called it an "opportunity" rather than added pressure.
"I know we lost some key players these past couple of days, but I do feel like we have the team to compete for the Super Bowl next year," Paysinger said. "Eli is gonna be one of the top five quarterbacks in the league and I feel like once we correct some of the things that we have on our defense that we can compete with anybody.
"I feel like with us having a pretty good team coming back and the Super Bowl being in New Jersey that adds fuel to it. We came off of a lackluster season. The best remedy for that is to make it to the Super Bowl for our fans at home."
With the opportunity that now sits in front of him, Paysinger hopes to prove he can be a key part of the defense that gets the Giants there.