It might be a job for him now, but that doesn’t mean that New York Giants rookie offensive tackle Justin Pugh is any less excited about playing this Sunday in Dallas, where he will take his first career regular season snaps as a member of a National Football League team.
“I’m excited to just to get out there and compete and play in a big game and help this team win,” he said.
Pugh, the Giants’ first-round draft pick this year, has certainly come a long way to get to this point. The 6’4”, 301-pound rookie out of Syracuse overcame missing several days of training camp early in the summer due to a concussion and managed to quickly get caught up to where he was soon rotating in with the starters in practice.
When injuries struck the offensive line—right tackle David Diehl is currently sidelined for at least another four weeks after having thumb surgery, while center David Baas continues to work his way back from a sprained MCL—the coaches elevated Pugh into the starting lineup at right tackle for the preseason games, the position apparently now his to lose.
Pugh, who will become the second Giants rookie offensive lineman under current head coach Tom Coughlin to make a start right out of the gate, has literally been attached at the hip with the man who lines up next to him on the offensive line.
That guy is right guard and 10-year veteran Chris Snee, who like Pugh also started as a rookie on Day 1. He's someone that has built a pretty good career for himself that includes two Super Bowl championships and four Pro Bowls.
“He’s been great for me,” Pugh said. “Just being out on the field and making sure that if I do something wrong on one play, forget about it. We’ll drive on, we’ll get better the next play, and I think it’s something just to keep me going and make sure I’m staying focused.”
Pugh said that every piece of advice he's received from Snee so far has been gold.
“He reminds me that I just have to go out there and prove that I deserve to be out there playing,” Pugh said of Snee’s best words of wisdom to date.
Snee said he’s been impressed with how the rookie has gone about his business of being a professional football player and believes there should be no reason for the Giants offense to scale things back just because Pugh has never taken a NFL regular season snap before.
“It’s full steam ahead,” he said. “I’m excited for Justin to make his first start. First game of the year at Dallas—what’s there to not be excited about?”
If Pugh is the least bit nervous about potentially lining up across from Ware, he did a good job of hiding it.
“I’m going to go out there and whoever I go up against, I’m going to go out there and compete,” he said. “I can’t hope that they don’t line him on my side. Getting into that is just a sticky situation, so I’m going to go out there and play whoever they line up against me.”
Pugh obviously can’t predict the outcome of the game, but he is hoping that this week will be the first step toward him earning the respect from his teammates.
“I think that’s something that I will go out and try to prove to the guys in this room,” he said. “I’m really concerned about being out there and playing for your teammates.
“You want to be seen and not heard, and I think that’s the best way to earn the respect and earn your stripes in the locker room, to go out there and play hard and show them that you can compete and play at this level."
He also hopes to take this week’s regular season game experience and use it to grow.
“I definitely don’t want to make mistakes, but obviously it’s part of the growing-up process,” he said. “If you make mistakes and learn from them and don’t repeat them, you will be a heck of a player.”