As the New York Giants kick off training camp this week in New Jersey, a familiar face isn't present. In fact, although he doesn't get the national media attention that some of his teammates receive, the reality is that Chris Snee had been one of the most familiar faces in the Giants locker room for a decade running.
Snee—a 10-year staple at right guard, the third-to-last-remaining member of that 2007 Super Bowl team and head coach Tom Coughlin's son-in-law—made his retirement official just before camp got underway in East Rutherford.
But it's critical that those who fought alongside Snee during his time with the Giants carry on his football legacy for the sake of those who weren't fortunate enough to spend quality time with him, because Snee really has been the embodiment of what the Giants are all about.
Hell, he even inspired Coughlin himself.
"I always looked up to see where he was sitting," Coughlin said of the times he would gather the players in the team auditorium, according to The New York Times. "It gave me confidence."
Quiet, disciplined, hard-working. He's been the ultimate grinder, which was certainly a big reason why he was only the second player Coughlin drafted in New York (behind only Philip Rivers pre-Eli Manning trade, which took place one round ahead in 2004) and why he missed only a single start during the eight years that made up the prime of his career.
A battered and bruised 31-year-old Snee missed all but three games last season. And while he was around as he rehabbed, the unfortunate reality is that young offensive peers like Justin Pugh and Eric Herman weren't able to be placed under Snee's wing.
That, of course, also applies to new rookies Odell Beckham Jr., Weston Richburg and Andre Williams, which is why it'll now be up to veterans like Manning, Will Beatty, Victor Cruz, Antrel Rolle, Prince Amukamara, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jason Pierre-Paul, Steve Weatherford and Zak DeOssie to ensure that the torch is passed properly.
"I think Chris was everything you could ever hope for in a player: toughness, integrity, and a lot of pride," Giants co-owner John Mara said this week, according to CBS New York. "Winning mattered to him. I think he set a great example for all of the other players."
The key, now, is for him to continue to set an example by proxy.
The four-time Pro Bowler might not be impossible to replace on the field. Again, he's 32 now and was barely a factor in 2013. His play had started to slide as early as 2011, and the Giants had recently invested in interior offensive linemen John Jerry, J.D. Walton and Geoff Schwartz, so he's picking an apt time to walk away.
But the Giants, who know as well as anyone that team unity and healthy morale help turn good teams into great ones, will have a much tougher time replacing him off the field. It's a good thing Coughlin and Manning are present for that transition, because this franchise can't afford to get away from the Chris Snee approach to football and life.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFC East for Bleacher Report since 2012.
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