Sandro Platzgummer, the Austrian football player who came to the New York Giants two years ago thanks to the International Pathway Player program, has been a curiosity since his arrival in 2020.
Platzgummer has spent two seasons on the Giants’ practice squad. Thanks to an offer to return from GM Joe Schoen, and the International Player Pathway practice squad roster exemption being extended an extra year, Platzgummer is back for a third season with the Giants.
Can he be more than a curiosity? Can he actually make the 53-man roster?
“That would mean everything,” Platzgummer said when he and I sat down for a chat during rookie minicamp. “I would be the first one of my country to do it [play in the NFL via the pathway program].”
Let’s talk about Platzgummer as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 53-man roster.
By the numbers
Position: Running back
Contract: One-year, $705,000 | 2022 cap hit: $705,000
Career to date
Platzgummer has not played a regular-season snap, nor even been on the 53-man roster for a single day during his two seasons. He does, though, have a memorable highlight — a 48-yard run during a 2021 preseason game against the New York Jets.
As memorable as the run was the sideline reaction of his teammates.
“It meant a lot to me. I saw all the smiles,” Platzgummer said. “Watching it (on film) I saw all the coaches and players be happy about it. I know for a fact a lot of the players and also coaches they trusted me and the way that I was actually able to use the opportunity and show up made them happy just as it made me happy as well.
“It also speaks to the relationship I had with all the people. If I had a bad relationship with all the people they probably wouldn’t be happy if I had that run, so it speaks a lot about that.”
That, though, is not all Platzgummer has done in two seasons with the Giants.
Platzgummer has worked on his craft. He has worked to hone his knowledge of the game, and to expand his skillset to make him a more valuable commodity.
“I think I’m definitely a better football player. It’s going to be hard to compare, but pretty sure I’m better. The biggest difference to me is I know more about what I always did well and what I always didn’t do perfectly,” Platzgummer said.
“There are some things I did naturally the right way even though somebody might not have taught me. The coaching was good [in Austria], but it was probably not as good as the coaching I could have gotten at really good colleges or in the NFL. I just learned some things and saw some things differently and thought ‘good thing I always did that the right way even though nobody taught me.’ Some things I just noticed, well, I’ve done that on a high level but I haven’t done it perfectly.”
One example Platzgummer mentioned was in regards to returning punts and kickoffs, something he did regularly in Austria.
“I always thought it was just catching the ball and keeping my eyes up so I could see everybody. It’s actually about looking the ball all the way in and then looking up. It’s a very small difference, but nobody’s ever told me that over there,” Platzgummer said.
“The way I’ve been doing it I was very successful. I could probably catch most of the punts but if you want to be on the highest level, you want to be and play on this level you’ve got to do everything perfectly.
“I’m definitely much smarter rather than just a better athlete, which I am for sure, too.”
He also hopes he has made himself a more versatile player.
Platzgummer said he did little on special teams in Austria other than act as a return man. He has tried hard to lean other special teams roles since coming to the Giants.
“I don’t want to leave any stones unturned,” Platzgummer said. “I’ve done many different things over the last two seasons on the practice squad during the season, also in the preseason. I played so many different [positions] I could play on special teams, which are quite many with my skill set.
“I’ve gotta do as much as I can and take as much as I can. That’s going to be the goal, to do as much as I can to get my chances as high as possible.”
Platzgummer feels like this could be his best chance to make the Giants’ 53-man roster. He also knows it could be his last chance to play in the NFL.
Platzgummer said he was “very relieved” when the Giants, with a new GM in Joe Schoen and new head coach in Brian Daboll, offered him a contract to return for a third season.
“I went home after last season and thought to myself every opportunity I really got I took advantage of it. I was actually proud of myself,” Platzgummer said. “The year I had I was happy with it, even though I wasn’t on the roster I felt like I’ve done everything to try to get there, and now being able to have another year to prove it and get even better, obviously every year you get better, every year I know more. I’m glad I’m here.
“I want to make the team and try to get as many reps as I can and try to be healthy. Even if I’m not I’m trying to stay on the field. I didn’t miss any practices last year. I handled it like it was my last year. This year might be more likely to be my last year and I’m going to handle it the same.”
The Giants have Saquon Barkley at running back, with Platzgummer competing for a backup role. Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Antonio Williams and Jashaun Corbin stand in his path.
Platzgummer hopes that the new regime means he has a new opportunity.
“Obviously with a new GM and coach it’s more likely that changes can happen. I have more of the ability to have a good first impression,” Platzgummer said.
Circumstances, Platzgummer said, really didn’t give him that opportunity in 2020.
“I came here in July and sat in a hotel for a month [because of COVID-19 protocols]. I was not in perfect shape. I didn’t have much time to prepare, I didn’t have the playbook. There was no preseason. I knew coming from Austria my odds were the slimmest they could ever be to make the team,” Platzgummer said. “So, the first year for me I really took it like a learning year. I was trying to learn and see how it’s done here.
“Last year I took it pretty much the way I do now. I try to give my best every single time and I’m trying to make the roster.”
We’ll see if he can.