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Giants’ Nick Gates says he is “still in competition” for center job

He is playing the position for the first time, and appears to be adjusting well

New York Giants Training Camp
Nick Gates snapping to Daniel Jones during Friday’s Blue-White Scrimmage.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Ahh, the games NFL teams and the media play. Media members covering the New York Giants have tried a number of times to get head coach Joe Judge and his lieutenants to admit, or at least hint, who the team’s starting center will be. Even though practice reps have made the answer pretty apparent, inquiries have been stonewalled.

With an opportunity to talk to one of the combatants in the center competition on Monday, a media member asked Gates via videoconference if he could “envision” being the starting center against the Pittsburgh Steelers when the season opens in two weeks.

Gates gave his best Sgt. Schultz “I know nothing” answer. If you’re too young to know that I just dropped a ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ reference, well, then I’m just older than you are.

“I’m still in competition with Spencer Pulley and Tyler Haycraft,” Gates said. “We’re going to go at it and it’s going to be that way until the coach lets you guys know who the starter is and lets us know who the starter is. You can ask coach Judge that question if you want.”

Tried that. I guess we’ll all find out for sure on Sept. 14 what we think we already know.

Anyway, what does Gates, a collegiate left tackle who started games at right tackle and right guard for the Giants last season, feel has been the biggest challenge at his new position?

“Honestly, just mentally, getting the playbook, getting in and just knowing what to do with every single front the defense gives us,” Gates said. “Our defense gives us a lot of different things to look at, mix it up a lot. That’s probably the biggest thing, but it’s good for me to get out there against our defense and see all that because we are most likely not going to get this much different stuff in a game when we go to a real live game.”

Early in training camp, offensive line coach Marc Colombo said Gates “owns it” when he is at center and that “he’s the alpha male that you want at the position.”

Gates didn’t quite know how to respond to Colombo’s “alpha male” assertion when I asked him about it.

“I think offensive linemen have to be the alpha people of the whole huddle. As a center, it’s your huddle until the QB steps in. You have to make sure it’s right and it looks good until the QB steps in,” Gates said. “It’s the first time I have been in charge of the line, it’s nice. It’s a lot more responsibility mentally. It’s something I am getting used to.”

Gates was asked about the difficult of building offensive line cohesion with no spring reps as a team and such a limited number of training camp practices.

“It takes time. We didn’t get OTA’s together, which doesn’t hurt us but that time helps gets the kinks and little things out of the way then so when you come to training camp you know the offense, you know the technique and you know how each person plays,” Gates said. “It helps during that. I think we’re doing a good job playing off each other. Me, Will and Zeitler have been together with each other for the last two years, I think. We kind of understand each other on the inside.”

We also kind of understand that the Giants don’t want to tell us who is starting at center. Even if it really doesn’t seem all that hard to figure out.