In early July, Giants.com reported New York Giants middle linebacker Mark Herzlich was at the Timex Performance Center four days a week to keep up his training. Herzlich had one mission on his mind: winning the starting role.
“I definitely think I can – that’s my goal,” Herzlich said. “That’s why I’m here every day working, to try to get that job. It’s all a competition. I think the good thing about the Giants is they want to win and I think whoever gives them the opportunity to win will be able to start at that position. For me right now, it is just learning the plays and knowing them, as well as I can so that way I can go in and let my play speak for itself.”
Herzlich played in the first 11 games of the 2011 season, starting the last two, but an ankle injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. It prompted the Giants to call Chase Blackburn back, whose short 2011 season was a highlight reel. One of those was an interception off Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI. Those two starts Herzlich had boosted his confidence and made him believe he can compete.
"It definitely let me know that I’m able to play at this level, and that I’m able to succeed and play well at this level," said Herzlich. "I think that playing in those two games was a great experience and confidence builder for me because everybody tells you that game speed is a lot faster than practice speed. Just going out there and knowing what it was like to play in a big game and on a big stage, you get confidence that builds up for the next year."
Sure, it was only two games that Herzlich actually started in 2011, but those two games seemed to do the trick. His impression at training camp so far is paying off.
The spot looks like it could shape out to be a competition between Herzlich and Blackburn, and right now Herzlich is making more plays. According to our Day 4 practice report, his personal training is paying off and he's showing quickness in pass coverage. As of right now, Herzlich is still running with the second unit and Blackburn with the starters. That is subject to change.
"It’s something that just kind of falls into place," said Herzlich on the middle linebacker competition. "We try to do the best we can, we encourage each other and learn from each other, I think that’s how the whole linebacker room works really. Chips will fall where they may and we root for the best for each other."
Blackburn could say the same in his training camp experience with the competition between Blackburn and the other middle linebackers.
"They’re also playing middle linebacker, so obviously I have that kind of bond, but I always have that for undrafted free agents," said Blackburn. "I feel like I was one of them, just like Antonio [Pierce] was, and I’m just trying to help them learn what they need to do to stay in this league, and to get better, and have an opportunity to keep that chip on your shoulder, and prepare every day. Prepare like a starter and fight for a spot, even if they are fighting for my spot."
Discovering his ability to play at the NFL level is motivating Herzlich, but not more than having to watch the Super Bowl run on the sideline with his injury. He setting a goal to be on the field and make the push for another title.
"You never want to watch a Super Bowl and be on the sideline, so that definitely motivated me to come back and be stronger and faster than I was the previous year," said Herzlich. "Watching the Super Bowl was an amazing feeling; I think watching the rest of the playoff games were tough for me because you want to be out there, you want to be playing in those big games. The Super Bowl is the Super Bowl, so you’re there and you’re loving it no matter what. Still, being on that field is a goal for me, and I think it’s a goal for the team to get there again."
Head coach Tom Coughlin has certainly noticed how hard Herzlich has worked. "He moves, he's moving well, he's focused and physical," said Coughlin. "He was that last year. You could never get him off the field, practice or anything else. He doesn't appear to have any issue other than wanting to have more time on the field."
Overall, Herzlich has a lot of goals on his list. What he's not doing is mulling on the past and thinking about how things could have shaped out differently.
"I don’t do what ifs," said Herzlich. "There are too many instances in my life when I could go back and say what if, what if. What if I didn’t get sick? What if I didn’t get hurt? That’s not how you move forward, so I don’t do that at all."