There are more important things in life than football. Or video games. Or social media arguments. Or which side of the incredibly divisive political aisle you are on.
New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman stood at a podium inside the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Friday, his hair gone from chemotherapy treatments for Lymphoma, and reminded us all of that.
He laughed. He smiled. He made jokes, many directed at himself. He thanked anyone and everyone for their support. He hesitated once or twice, checking his emotions before he spoke. He also, however, dropped a pearl of wisdom that is well worth remembering:
“You know, listen, here’s what I’d say to everybody. None of us laying on our death bed are going to say we wished we worked more, or gosh, I wish I’d emptied that email inbox, none of us are going to do that. I think, and I’ve been going to this place for the last seven years of my life, really and truly, I firmly believe it’s faith, family, and football,” Gettleman said. “
“Our legacy is our children. That’s our legacy. Art [Stapleton’s] legacy is not that he wrote a good article one day, or he broke a story. That’s not anyone’s legacy. I know I sound like an old man, but I’m not. You just think about these sort of things. If anything, it’s just confirmed where I’ve been getting to for the last seven years, if that makes sense. Life is precious, I don’t care what it is, you just can’t not appreciate how important people are and how, really, we’re in the people business. At the end of the day, it’s not about how much money you make. It really isn’t, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s really about what you do with your gifts, and family is our true legacy.”
Maybe that strikes a chord with me at this point in my life because, like Gettleman, I’m at a place where I realize that work is what you do. How you treat people and the memories you make with your family is who you are. And who you are is far more important than what you do for a living.
Maybe it’s because I turn 58 in a couple of weeks and I’m closer to the end of my working life than I really want to think about. Maybe it’s because, while I rarely mention it, I’ve had my own fight with prostate cancer. Maybe it’s because of the recent passing of long-time journalist Ernie Palladino, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, after a long battle with cancer.
I just know that Gettleman is right when he talks about setting your priorities. I’m sitting in a hotel in New Jersey by myself for four nights covering training camp, and I’ve worked four straight days now of at least 13 hours, so maybe I’m not listening to Gettleman as well as I should. I certainly want to do the best work I can do and make Big Blue View your go-to place for Giants info.
It’s just that I also know that in the end that’s not what’s going to matter in your life or mine. What’s going to matter is the people around each of us. Our families, our children and grand-children. How we treat and impact the people around us. That’s what is going to matter.
Gettleman reminded me of that when he spoke on Friday.
Saquon a star who doesn’t act like one
The most impressive thing about Saquon Barkley isn’t his immense talent, or his equally immense quads. It’s his humility and the way he is handling all of the attention and expectations being heaped upon him.
Friday Barkley talked about “living the dream,” getting to sign autographs for kids, seeing his family, not knowing how to react to fans calling his name during practice, and how much he is learning from Jonathan Stewart and Eli Manning.
The kid’s head is in the right place and that, as much as his talent, has to make you optimistic about his future.
No more scholarships
Giants radio analyst Carl Banks was the first one I heard complain, several seasons ago, that there were too many Giants players on “scholarship.” That meant there were certain players who knew, based on paycheck or draft slot, that they were going to be part of the roster — and maybe part of the starting lineup — whether they earned it with their performance or not.
Over the past several seasons I could give you several examples of players I felt were on scholarship with the front office, coaching staff, or both. It’s pointless to rehash those names — you can do it yourself — so I won’t.
Gettleman said Friday that in his remarks to players on Wednesday he made sure they all understand that Giants University is no longer handing out those scholarships.
“One of the things that everybody’s got to understand is, this is the NFL. No one’s on scholarship, no one’s taking a redshirt year,” Gettleman said. “So, what I told the players is, we’re at camp. You guys have earned the right to get to training camp. Now it’s time for you to earn the right to get to the 53. And then once you make the 53, you’ve got to earn the right to be on the 47. So we talked about that, and I said to them, that’s every day. That’s every rep, that’s every meeting.”
That is a welcome change. Perhaps easier to follow through on in the first season of a tenure as a coach or GM, but let’s hope that it is something carries through not just in 2018 but for the next several seasons to come.
This feels like football
I hate to keep beating a dead horse, but as I watch these training camp practices each day it is hard to believe the difference between what passed for training camp a year ago under Ben McAdoo vs. what the Giants are doing now.
A year ago, the Giants spent most of their time seemingly trying to avoid injuries and be sure everybody felt great rather than practicing football. The science of keeping everyone’s body feeling at its peak seemed to take precedence over actually getting ready for NFL football. The Giants did a glorified walk though the first day of camp in which footballs were not thrown, rarely wore pads and in retrospect, whether Odell Beckham was playing or not, simply entered the 2017 regular season not prepared to play.
Even at the tail end of Coughlin’s tenure, in an effort to avoid injuries there were “spa days” and practices that ended early so player could go through extended cool-down stretching periods.
Shurmur said when players arrived for training camp that his goal was to “make it look like football” whenever the Giants practiced.
The Giants have accomplished that. Practices are crisp. They are well structured. The first two unpadded practices achieved Shurmur’s goal, they looked like football.
Saturday began a stretch of three straight days of what are expected to be fully-padded practices. Tom Coughlin probably did that, but I honestly can’t remember if I have seen that since two-a-day practices ended several years ago.
In the end, I have no idea whether or not the way the Giants are currently practicing will lead to more wins.
I just know that I’m enjoying it. I’m not wondering what the heck I’m looking at. I’m watching football practice.