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Darren Waller says trade to Giants ‘caught me off guard’

Waller discusses wide variety of topics in first meeting with New York media

2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games
Darren Waller
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Darren Waller, the new tight end for the New York Giants, said Wednesday afternoon that the trade that brought him to New Jersey from the Las Vegas Raiders “caught me off guard.”

“I did not see this coming,” Waller said, adding that “it’s been high-octane the last 24 hours.

Waller said he has “a lot of positive emotions” and “a lot of gratitude” after the trade. “Getting a clean slate with the Raiders was amazing for me ... Grateful for my time spent there ... now I’m grateful to be here.”

Waller recently married Las Vegas Aces WNBA player Kelsey Plum and just got back from his honeymoon one day before learning of the trade. He called that “a bit of a curveball.”

Here are some other takeaways from Waller’s Zoom call with New York media on Wednesday afternoon.

Those health questions

Waller has played only 20 of 34 regular-season games the past two seasons. He knows there are questions about his health.

“I’m feeling great right now,” Waller said. “The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make going into this offseason is making sure I’m peaking at the right time. I feel like something for me to help elevate my game to such a high level was working myself so hard in those 2018, 2019, 2020 offseasons to where it was almost too hard, and that became my norm.

“Now, it’s about how I become more efficient with it and making sure I’m peaking when the season starts, not showing up to training camp having worked so hard that I’m almost exhausted. That doesn’t set me up for success, or the team up for success.”

Waller dealt with a hamstring injury last season when he played in just nine games.

“There’s a lot of injuries you can kind of tough your way through and play with injury, but the hamstring literally you cannot run with a hamstring injury,” Waller said. “When you continue to re-aggravate it at practice trying to come back and trying to be out there for your team as quick as possible it really limits you because you literally cannot run no matter what you try to do.”

Extending his contract

Waller has four years left on his contract, but no guaranteed money after the 2023 season. He said Tuesday he has not been made aware of any talks between his representatives and the Giants about extending his deal to include guaranteed money beyond the upcoming season.

“That’s not something that’s been discussed,” Waller said. “I try to leave that to Drew [Rosenhaus] and Joe [Schoen]. I’m focused on what I can do this offseason and coming up this season ... I’ll let everything else happen the way it happens.”

NYG offense, new teammates

Waller began meeting his new teammates over the last 24 hours. Players he met today “radiate with humility,” Waller said. “I really respect that.”

“Guys that are so talented and have a lot of upside and are just really stepping into their primes as players. I’m excited to be with them.”

Waller said he expects a “high-octane offense” with Brian Daboll as head coach and Mike Kafka as offensive coordinator.

“It’s an exciting brand of football,” Waller said. “You can tell by the way he’s come here he’s really empowered players ... I’m excited to just be in the mix and be a part of what this offense is going to try to do.”

Recovery journey

Waller was suspended for four games in 2016 and for the entire 2017 season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. He admitted that he was addicted to painkillers and nearly lost his life in 2017 by overdosing on drugs laced with fentanyl.

“The greatest lessons I’ve taken from my recovery journey to the field is just to be centered in the present moment, to take things one day at a time,” Waller said. “When I got reinstated and got an opportunity to start for the Raiders I wasn’t envisioning these huge statistical seasons or my name in headlines and lights, I was just trying to be as consistent a player as I possibly could from period to period, from practice to practice, from week to week.”

has ‘Just for Today tattooed on his wrist.

Can he still be a great player?

After back-to-back 1,000-yard plus receiving seasons, injury have limited him the past two years. He will be 31 when the 2023 season starts.

“I believe wholeheartedly in myself,” Waller said. “I believe through action and consistent performance Giants fans will believe as well.

“They can have question at this point about my health, those are legitimate concerns but I believe I’ve addressed those issues and I’m willing to come out here and to be the best I can be, to be a weapon for this team, a tool that this team can use to get to that next level that they want to go to. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”