GIANTS ROOKIE LINEMAN GETS SHOT TO PLAY AFTER SCHWARTZ INJURY
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Weston Richburg began his rookie training camp last month with a straightforward, modest but unequivocal goal.
“I wanted to come in and compete,” Richburg said. “If you go to a team and don’t want to compete for a starting role, I think you’re cheating yourself. I want to be here, I want to be a player. I don’t want to be a guy that’s not playing. I want to contribute, be reliable, and be a guy that people can count on.”
Now he’ll get a chance to be that guy.
The Giants suddenly have a vacancy on their first-team offensive line after left guard Geoff Schwartz suffered a dislocated toe Friday night in a 35-24 preseason victory over the Jets. Schwartz is out for an indefinite time period and until he returns, Richburg, the Giants’ second-round draft choice this year, is likely to play the position.
A 6-3, 298-punder, Richburg has impressed his teammates and coaches since his arrival in May and throughout training camp. A four-year starter at Colorado State – where he was primarily a center – Richburg has taken most of his reps at guard with the Giants. Against the Jets, he played on both sides of center J.D. Walton.
“As an offensive lineman, you have to be ready for something like that.” Richburg said. “The starters are playing a lot. We’re in there more. We don’t rotate as much as some other positions do, so you have to be ready for any kind of injury or anything like that that happens. I was ready for whatever came at me.”
Richburg has traveled on an accelerated learning curve in the last month. He admits it’s a big leap to go from the Mountain West Conference to the NFL. That’s particularly true here, because in practice he often blocks Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, veterans who have played a combined 19 NFL seasons.
“These guys have been playing in the NFL since I was like 12 years old,” Richburg said. “I mean, facing these guys is like, ‘This guy’s been doing this as a job since I was a child.’ That’s a huge difference. They’re extremely smart. They’ve been doing it forever. Obviously, they’re stronger and faster. It’s definitely an adjustment.”
It’s one Richburg seems to be making successfully.
“He’s got good feet, good leverage,” Jenkins said. “He plays low and has strong hands. One of the biggest things I’ve seen in him is that he has an offensive lineman attitude. You watch him in the game, you watch how he finishes blocks, runs down field, tries to help push piles. That’s something that you can’t teach; that’s something that you either have or you don’t.”
Patterson said he tested Richburg in practice.
“In the back of your mind, you think you might have an advantage because he’s a rookie,” Patterson said. “I’m going to be moving my hands around a lot, trying to get some push on him, make sure he can stay low and stuff like that. He has good feet, good hands. He’s not going to go complain about what’s being done. He wants to work hard. He wants to make sure his technique’s right. He came out with really good technique already, so I like that. I just think once he gets the feel of the offense, he’ll be a good player.”
Offensive players like running back Rashad Jennings are counting on it.
“He’s a good, physical lineman,” Jennings said. “He’s a guy that always wants to finish his blocks. There’s no question that he can get the job done.”
Richburg has received his share of first-team reps and is the favorite to take over for Schwartz. But he could still be challenged by John Jerry, who started every game the previous two seasons for the Miami Dolphins, and Dallas Reynolds, who played extensively in the Giants’ final two games last season.
“We have to rally together and get on the same page,” Walton said.
“It is the ‘next man up’ mentality,” Jerry said. “I feel really bad for Schwartz. It is very unfortunate. It is sad. At the end of the day, if the next guy is up, then the next guy has to go.”
Can Jerry push Richburg for the starting job?
“I am not worried about that,” Jerry said. “At the end of the day, we are going to come out here and push each to get better in practice. That is the most important thing.”
Richburg said he expects to continue getting reps at multiple positions. He has quickly learned one of the most important skills necessary for a young offensive lineman.
“What I’m doing best right now is having a short memory,” Richburg said. “If I make a mistake, I’m able to clap it off and then just go to the next play and not let it affect me. I think that’s something that sometimes can hurt players. You know, they get hung up on making a mistake and it hurts them, it carries on play by play. I think I’m doing a good job of forgetting about it and just playing fast and continuing.”
If he keeps it up, Richburg could well find himself in the starting lineup on opening night in Detroit.