When it comes to the New York Giants defensive line there has been no shortage of things to talk about recently.
Third-round draft pick Damontre Moore is drawing raves early in camp. Second-round pick Johnathan Hankins could push for playing time. There is the recovery from back surgery of Jason Pierre-Paul to worry about. Mathias Kiwanuka returning to defensive end full-time is a story line. What kind of player can Justin Tuck be? What can free-agent acquisitions Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson bring to the table? Will Markus Kuhn begin the regular season on the PUP list?
Almost no one, however, is talking about Marvin Austin. The 2011 second-round pick hasn't given anyone much to talk about in his two seasons, other than injuries, compiling eight tackles in eight games last season. He missed all of his rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle, then suffered a back injury he believes he came back from too quickly and a season-ending torn meniscus in Week 16 against the Baltimore Ravens.
"I've had an interesting journey," is how Austin put it while standing outside for a brief chat recently at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
The Giants drafted Hankins in the second round, brought in free agents Jenkins, Patterson and Frank Okam, and re-signed veteran Shaun Rogers after a season on IR. Austin is not oblivious to the challenge the presence of all of that veteran talent has placed in front of him.
"Anybody in their right human mind would understand. I've been hurt for the past few seasons, so they have to protect themselves as an organization, which I understand," Austin said. "At the end of the day all the game is is a competition, whether you are going against a veteran or a rookie everybody's competing.
"I just understand that there's an opportunity there. I've gotta come out here and perform and get better every day and do rather than say."
Can Austin make the 53-man roster? It looks like a tough road for the 24-year-old considering all of the additions the Giants made at the defensive tackle position. Before writing him off, however, remember that under GM Jerry Reese the Giants have historically been exceptionally patient, maybe sometimes too patient, with draft picks.
Defensive line coach Robert Nunn said Monday that Austin, coming off his first healthy off-season, "knows what he's got to do."
"He's never been able to go through a true off-season because of different ailments that he's had. He's where he needs to be right now, he just can't disappear when the pads come on," Nunn said. "He knows what he's got to do, I've spoken to him about it, when the pads come on he's got to produce, when he gets out there under the lights he's got to produce. Right now, he's got himself in the position to give himself the best opportunity since he's been here of having a productive year."
Austin said "not at all" when asked if he ever doubted he could still be an effective player. "It just takes an opportunity. The biggest thing for me is staying healthy," he said. "This year I've got an opportunity and I'm ready to go out there and prove I can play in this league."
Whether or not Austin can really do that, of course, remains to be seen. He is, however, running out of time to make his case.