Bobby Okereke is a talented player who had options when it came to his free agency. But Okereke always had his eye on the Big Apple and the New York Giants.
“This was a team I had my eye on,” the Giants new off-ball linebacker said Thursday when he spoke to New York media via Zoom. “There was a lot of mutual interest. When things lined up, just worked with my agent. I told him once we had the right deal, I was ready to pull trigger. So, this honestly is the perfect situation for me.
“There were a couple of teams that were interested throughout the whole process. And I told my agent from day one, ‘I want to play in New York City.’ New York City’s been one of my favorite cities, growing up, my whole life. And this franchise is on the rise. I was very fortunate to play behind (Colts defensive linemen) DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart. Very elite defensive tackles, and to be able to replicate that, if not improve on that here with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, it’s just a very fortunate opportunity for me as a linebacker. I’m excited. I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m excited to meet the leaders of this team. I’m excited to be part of this defense and franchise.”
Okereke signed a four-year, $40 million contract on Wednesday, upgrading a position where the Giants were never able to find a permanent solution a season ago.
Okereke had 132 tackles in 2021 and 151 in 2022. He is also reputed to be an excellent coverage linebacker, something the Giants could definitely benefit from. He has not blitzed often in his career, though, and has only two sacks in his four seasons.
He knows that will change with Wink Martindale as his defensive coordinator.
“I’m going to blitz a lot more, which I’m excited about,” Okereke said. “I love playing fast, and physical. And I think that’s why Coach Martindale blitzes so much, so players can play free. There’s not a lot of thinking, and that’s what you want to eliminate. You want to eliminate thinking and just have fast decision-making.”
Okereke said that with the Indianapolis Colts he was often used as a coverage linebacker while others were sent to blitz.
“I think the coverage has been such an asset of mine,” Okereke said. “Coaches have always felt that if they blitz in front of me, I’m a guy who can scrape over the top and clean things up. Or if I’m the sole guy in coverage, I’m going to hold up.”
Here are some other topics Okereke addressed on Thursday.
Week 17 vs. the Giants
Okereke had a career-high 17 tackles in a 38-10 loss to the Giants, including two for loss and a forced fumble.
“Everything just kind of came together that game honestly,” Okereke said. “I was just amped up, playing really well. And I got in a groove that game, obviously 17 tackles. Had the forced fumble, a couple of TFLs (tackles for loss). I just felt very free playing. So, it was exciting. And for that to be my best game of the year, for this to come full circle, and for me to be a New York Giant in this moment, it’s just really surreal.”
Okereke also drew a personal foul penalty for a late hit on quarterback Daniel Jones in that game, and he knows he will hear about it from his new teammates.
“There will probably be some fun trash talk,” Okereke said. “But me and Daniel dapped it up after the game. I told him it wasn’t intentional. He’s a competitive guy. I’m a competitive guy. He’s trying to run, and I’m trying to stop him from running. Obviously, not intentionally trying to hit him in the head or anything. But we dapped it up and cleared the air. We should be good. Red jersey – he’s safe. I’m hands-off.”
Jones delivered a shot of his own to Okereke on a scramble later in the game. As a new teammate, Okereke said he can appreciate that about the quarterback.
“The crazy thing about that is obviously when a quarterback’s running, you think he might slide. But during that game, you could feel just his drive to win,” Okereke said. “He’s running into the end zone. He’s barreling into me. He’s doing everything he can to help his team win. So, I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy. And I’m fired up to be teammates with him.”
The signing of Parris Campbell
Earlier on Thursday, the Giants added wide receiver Parris Campbell — a teammate of Okereke’s with the Colts. Okereke said he was “excited as hell” about Campbell joining the Giants.
“You’re getting a fast, physical guy. And you’re getting a great leader,” Okereke said. “He’s got a great personality. He’s competitive. Parris is just an all-around great guy.”
Campbell’s first three NFL seasons were marred by injuries. Okereke said he always knew Campbell, who had a career-best 63 receptions in 2022, could be a productive player if he could stay healthy.
“He’s always had elite speed. I noticed that from day one OTAs. Guys got to come into the league and figure out their bodies,” Okereke said. “He’s faced a lot of adversity with injuries, but that’s only made him more resilient. You saw in his first year of full-time production, he was very successful. So, he’s just looking forward to capitalizing and growing on that.”