For New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton, preparing for the 2020 season from home has meant practicing not only with footballs, but tennis balls.
In order to improve his hand-eye coordination, Slayton has been doing tennis ball drills against his house in Atlanta alongside his father, Eddie, and sister, Maileka.
“It got pretty interesting sometimes,” Slayton said on Giants.com. “They got into it, so definitely some of that stuff was a lot of fun.”
Practicing with tennis balls has been one of many differences for Slayton this offseason as he prepares for his second year with the Giants. The 23-year-old had a breakout rookie campaign in 2019 in which he tied the NFL rookie lead in touchdown catches with eight while recording 48 receptions for 740 yards overall. He scored two touchdowns in a single game three times last season. Now, Slayton is preparing to help bring the Giants back to a winning record in 2020.
That improvement starts with getting his body right. Slayton suffered from a nagging hamstring last season so he has used this time to not only strengthen his body, but rest it too.
Slayton also knows that he has room for improvement mentally.
“My confidence was something that built as the year went on last year and hopefully this year, I’ll be able to hit it in Week 1,” Slayton said.
Slayton has also used the additional free time to connect virtually with his teammates outside of scheduled team Zoom meetings. Slayton said that his bond with quarterback Daniel Jones has continued to grow over time.
“Right now, we’re working on him consistently answering the phone,” Slayton said. “That’s the next step in our relationship. He’s gotten better and I know he’s working hard. I’m working hard where I am and we both are just ready to be back together.”
Slayton said that he typically opts to FaceTime Jones.
“If he doesn’t answer, I just send him a nicely worded text message,” Slayton joked.
Social media has also provided a way for Slayton to stay connected with past and current teammates. That connection started during the 2020 NFL Draft when the Giants selected cornerback Chris Williamson in the seventh round.
Giants fans I’ve known @Chris_Will8 my whole life this going to be a late pick y’all will love WELCOME TO NY FAM‼️ https://t.co/jkI9Iw6nVV— Darius Slayton (@Young_Slay2) April 25, 2020
Slayton and Williamson played on rival football teams as kids. Friendly trash talk has already surfaced between the two because Wiliamson’s team defeated Slayton’s in a championship game when both were nine years old.
“Every time I see him, it’s nothing but love,” Slayton said. “It was crazy when we drafted him and his name came up with the Giants, my parents, my sister, everyone in the house freaked out. So it was really exciting and it will be cool to be teammates now and be on the same side.”
Of course, perhaps the biggest addition to Twitter this offseason has been Eli Manning. Slayton said that he did not believe it at first when he learned that the former Giants QB had joined social media.
“I saw somebody tweet about Eli Manning making a Twitter and I was like, ‘Yeah right.’ And then I saw the account and I was like, ‘No shot, this is some parody.’ Then I went to it and saw it was verified and then I read two of his first tweets and I was like, ‘Yeah it’s actually him. He would type that.’”
While social media has provided a helpful distraction throughout this virtual offseason, Slayton has one main goal in mind as he prepares for next season.
“I really want to help the team win and get back on track,” Slayton said.