Father Time is not kind to NFL players, and he can be particularly cruel to running backs. By the time they reach the age of 30, they are considered used up. So, the New York Giants signing of 31-year-old 10-year veteran running back Jonathan Stewart to a two-year deal has been greeted with trepidation amongst the fan base.
Stewart’s yards per carry average has, in fact, declined in each of the past three seasons — 4.6 (2015), 4.1 (2016), a career-worst 3.4 (2017). Yet, during a conference call with New York media on Monday Stewart expressed confidence that he can still play at a high level.
“I’ve got a lot left. The only reason why I would be playing is if I knew I could play and I know I can play, Dave [Gettleman] knows I can play -- there is a lot that I feel I want to prove and writing my own story as far as how things shape up moving forward for me,” Stewart said. “I’m excited about the opportunity at hand and I’m grateful for the owners taking a chance on me and trusting in the GM and the coaching staff to trust me.”
Of course, saying he can still play and proving it are two different things.
“I expect to compete at the end of the day. That’s what we do. If you’re not competing, if you’re not expected to have competition amongst the group, then you shouldn’t be in this busines,” Stewart said. “It doesn’t make you better if you’re not willing to compete and get better and I see this as an opportunity for that for everyone and I’m excited to get things going.”
We said previously that Stewart’s leadership and locker room presence could be as much a reason for the signing as his on-field contribution. Stewart understands that.
“I’m going into my 11th year as a running back and it’s my first with a new team. I’m definitely excited to go in there and share my wisdom as being a professional in this business and also learn, too, from the younger guys as well,” Stewart said. “There is always room for growth and I’m excited to be apart of that running back group and I’m sure we have a lot to look forward to at the end of the day. The sky is the limit and I’m excited to meet those guys and be a part of the team.”
Stewart also admitted that, after visiting with the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks as well as the Giants, his relationships with Gettleman and offensive coordinator Mike Shula were a deciding factor.
“Dave believes in me, and it’s just good to know that the GM believes in what you can do on the field, and Mike Shula, there is a familiarity with the offense and the scheme, and I believe in what they’re going to do moving forward with the draft,” Stewart said. “They’re definitely a good team, they’ve got a lot of good players on offense and defense and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”