Love him or hate him, David Diehl has been a valuable member of the New York Giants offensive line for 10 seasons now. He has started somewhere on the line every season since coming out of the University of Illinois as a fifth-round pick in 2003.
Diehl's place in the lineup at right tackle is now threatened by the arrival of first-round pick Justin Pugh of Syracuse and possibly the emergence of third-year player James Brewer.
Diehl, who took a pay cut to stay with the Giants in 2013, is not threatened by the presence of Pugh who, like Diehl, is noted for his versatility.
"That is part of being in the NFL - it is about competition and competing," Diehl said. "There are always going to be new guys coming in. It definitely does bring competition and that does nothing but help your football team win games."
As much -- and maybe moreso than his ability -- it has been his selflessness that has made Diehl so critical to the Giants over the years.
Diehl has, without complaint, played whatever position on the line the Giants have needed him to play for 10 years. Argue all you want over how effective he has been at some of those spots, and I know I have pointed out his poor Pro Football Focus grades plenty of times, but his willingness to move around has helped the Giants win two Super Bowls.
Not every professional athlete shares Diehl's willingness to sacrifice. Look at what is going on with the Kansas City Chiefs, where Branden Albert is balking at taking his millions in salary from the left side of the line to the right. Or, remember why Osi Umenyiora is no longer a Giant. Bottom line with Osi was he couldn't stand not being the star.
Diehl's professional attitude -- and the experience and versatility he offers -- might not be appreciated by many in the fan base who can't wait for the day Diehl is done as a Giant. My guess, however, is that it is greatly appreciated by the organization and, specifically, the coaching staff.
That's why my guess is that whether or not Diehl loses the competition for the right tackle job to Pugh or Brewer he will remain a valuable asset to the Giants in 2013. Where else will the Giants find a veteran lineman who knows their system and is, basically, a plug-and-play guy at any of four spots on the line at a moment's notice? No, he might not be a Pro Bowl player at any of them but he can do an adequate short-term job at all of them. Which makes him a perfect, and incredibly valuable, asset as a reserve.
Diehl understands the transition from facing Big East Conference defensive ends to NFL defensive linemen, the best in the world at what they do.
"Everybody is going to talk about the speed of the game; that is number one," Diehl said. "In the pros, you are playing up against the best of the best, week in and week out. It is about being quick with your reaction time, not being late. In college, if you are a split second late on a blitz pickup, you could still react and be able to adjust to it. In the pros, it's that split second and it is over. It is education, being a student of the game. When you're a rookie, they're going to try and throw whatever they can at you and use it to their advantage. As a rookie, you can't sit here and use youth as an excuse. It is not, because the other 10 guys in the huddle are counting on you to do your job. And, most importantly, know what you are doing each and every play."
If it takes Pugh a while to make that adjustment, or Brewer is still not ready to step into a prominent role, the Giants -- and whether they like it or not, Giants fans -- should be comforted by the fact Diehl is still around to help wherever he's needed.