In the year and a half since he has been a member of the New York Giants, Damon Harrison, affectionately known as “Snacks” has quickly become a favorite of both fans and reporters.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise that he was one of the first players to speak to the media when the Giants reported to training camp opened Thursday.
Snacks was asked about a variety of topics, but perhaps his most interesting, and surprising answer came when he was asked about his impression of rookie defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.
“Oh, SMART!” Harrison said. “Smart, the very first thing that pops out at you. A lot of the rookies, unless they’re quarterbacks, that’s one of the things you don’t really notice. But he got coached by my former coach who taught me everything I know, Karl Dunbar. So I can see that helped him along the way, I can see everything that coach Dunbar taught me, Dalvin is picking up the same things.”
Speaking for myself personally, that little tidbit of information, that the two defensive tackles share a coach, made some things make sense. My first impression of Tomlinson in college was that his game was very similar to that of Damon Harrison. Now we know, at least part of, the reason why.
Tomlinson is just one player the Giants are hoping will step up to replace the departed Johnathan Hankins, who left via free agency. Snacks was also asked how the Giants will replace him, he said:
“Well, you can’t. Hank was a special player, he did so many great things for the defense. Not only on the field but off the field as well. So I don’t think that’s something you try to replace. But you bring in a Dalvin Tomlinson, you have a Jay Bromley, a Robert Thomas, a Corbin Bryant. Guys like that, who can excel in that role and I tell them all the time ‘Don’t try to be Hank, be yourself’.”
Harrison was asked to elaborate on what “that role” was, to which he replied:
“You got to talk to the coach about that. That’s why I go in every year and talk to the coaches and ask them ‘What is your vision for me for the year?’ So there’s no in between, I know exactly if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Of course, the bait was taken and he was asked what his role in the defense would be.
“Stopping the run, man! On early downs! That’s what I’m here for. Provide a little push on the pocket, and if they need me on third downs, you know, I’m here to do that. So that’s how I base my years and how everything goes, based on the conversations with the coach.”
The major theme of Harrison’s comments was improvement, both personally and of the defense as a whole.
“We all improve. Whether it be the new guys we brought in or the guys we have coming back, and we have a lot of guys coming back from last year, the mission is still the same. To be better.”
“We don’t come here to be sub-par. We come here to play at our highest level. And as long as everyone does that, we’ll win some games. But as far as predicting wins and losses, and, you know, Super Bowls or bust, I don’t think anybody’s here for that.”
After finishing the 2016 season 11-5, and with most of a dominant defense returning, the expectations outside have risen to the point where the team is being talked about as a serious Super Bowl contender. Harrison was asked about those expectations as well.
“It’s just like you said, outside expectations,” Harrison replied. “One percent a day, man. Just get better one-percent a day. That’s why I wore this shirt. I had on my “Snacks” shirt, but I came in here with this shirt because that’s our theme this year. We can’t do anything about the end of the year, we can’t get to January if we don’t take care of this week first.”
Interestingly, and perhaps giving a glimpse into the mind of an undrafted free agent who still feels as though he has to fight for a roster spot despite his big contract, Harrison isn’t concerned with what he did well the year before.
“Everything you did wrong in the year before,” he said when asked what he will bring forward from 2016. “I mean, if you did anything good in the year before, I’m sure it became a habit. Consistency is everything in this league, so if you’re consistently doing things good, you can try to get better at it next year. But you’ve got to focus on what you know you did wrong. I mean, I didn’t have many sacks last year, and I’m gonna work my butt off this off-season, I have been so far, to change that. So if you ask me one thing that I’m taking from last year, its that I didn’t have many sacks.”
Continuing the theme of improvement, Harrison described the feeling along the defensive line.
“Yeah, the guys are still here. Nobody’s in the locker room talking about ‘I was an All-Pro, I went to the Pro Bowl, or, you know, we got it all figured out’. Guys are still trying to get better, genuinely. And you’ll see that this training camp. We still don’t have everything figured out. I still don’t understand JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul] completely, I still don’t understand OV [Olivier Vernon], and I have to learn the new guy next to me at three-technique. So I think that will help everybody to stay focused,” Harrison said.
“Just to improve man, just improve. We’re not going to sit here and chase numbers, and talk numbers. Because in this league things can, you know, go really good or it could go really bad if you’re chasing something that’s not the same as every other guy that’s on the field. So I don’t think anything other than improving what we did last year is the goal.”