The 2009 season was a rough one for running back Brandon Jacobs. He started out slowly, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, which was well below the 5.0-yard average he posted in 2007 and 2008.
He also suffered a painful knee injury early in the year, an injury that limited his movement and ultimately resulted in him being placed on injured reserve the final week of the season with a torn meniscus.
While Jacobs tried to play through his injury, he made no secret of his frustration with his numbers. At one point early in the season, he even threatened to quit the game if his yards-per-carry average didn't improve.
The good news is he didn't finish the season with the 3.4-yards-per-carry average that discouraged him early in the season. The bad news is that his final average of 3.7 yards per carry was nowhere near the 5.0 average he posted in 2007 and 2008.
Jacobs still plans to be a member of the Giants, and has no intention of quitting after playing out just one season of the new four-year, $25 million contract extension he signed last offseason. However, he's more determined than ever to erase the bad taste that 2009 left in his mouth.
Since becoming the starting running back in 2007 following the retirement of Tiki Barber, Jacobs has yet to put together a complete 16-game season, playing in only 11 games in 2007, 13 games in 2008, and 15 games in 2009.
Despite his inability to make it through a season, the 6-4 265 lb. Jacobs posted 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his first two years as a starter, his best performance coming in 2008 when he also finished with a career-high 15 touchdowns, and was one of two Giants rushers that season -- the other being Derrick Ward -- to crack the millennium mark.
In 2009, things went downhill for Jacobs almost right from the start. In addition to the knee injury, he was asked initially to run plays -- unsuccessfully at that -- which the team had previously assigned to Ward, who had signed with Tampa Bay.
While Jacobs tried to gut out the 2009 season amidst criticism that he wasn't running with his usual power, he was glad to see the season finally end and almost immediately began focusing on reinventing himself for 2010.
For starters, Jacobs had knee surgery even before the season ended and has declared himself fully healthy with no limitations, though he did admit to holding himself out of certain activities considering it's early in the offseason preparations.
Moreover, Jacobs is ready to silence the critics who believe that the 27-year old running back is on the decline.
"(The media) gave me a lot of (inspiration)," he said of all the negative press he received in 2009. "A lot of the stuff is marked out and I look at it a couple of days a week."
Every time he does look at those negative press clippings, they only serve to throw fuel on the fire that already burns within Jacobs, who left little doubt as to how motivated he truly is in his quest to regain his 2008 form and get back to being a 1,000-yard rusher.
"I feel like I'm on the verge of where I can be that great back and not just a back who takes up a roster spot, like what I felt I was last year,"
he said. "I want to have this year be my breakout season. I want to rush for more yards than I've ever rushed for, and score more points than I've ever scored.
"I have big goals for myself, and I'm going to wake the people up who fell asleep on me."
--Linebacker Clint Sintim is only a little more than a year removed from the college football scene, where at the University of Virginia he harassed ball carriers at every opportunity. As he prepares to enter his second season with the Giants, Sintim, who is projected to be the team's new starting strong-side linebacker in 2010, is hoping to justify the Giants' decision to take him in the second round of the 2009 draft.
As a fresh-faced rookie in 2009, Sintim's pro career got off to a slow start as he had to battle through an early season groin injury. Once that cleared up, he gradually began impressing coaches in practice with his attention to detail and his ability to lay the wood on opponents who wandered into his area of the field and finishing with a strong showing.
However, Sintim is far from satisfied with how his rookie season ended.
Brewing underneath his gentle, soft-spoken off-field exterior is what he calls "a raging beast" that Sintim hopes to unleash on NFL offenses this season as a full-time strong-side linebacker.
"My goals for this year?" he asked. "Just to be a raw beast. People can interpret that however they want to."
He even has a plan to make sure he accomplishes his goal.
"I need to start all over," he said. "I'm not saying that last year was a lost cause or that there weren't some good things to take from my rookie season, but I really just want to start all over and rebuild my game from the bottom up."
Sintim pointed out that with the new season comes the added challenges of learning a new system and becoming acclimated with teammates at new positions. "That's why it's a great opportunity to reinvent my game," he said.
"I feel like if I can start all over and rebuild my game from the bottom up I'll be much better prepared for anything."
Sintim, who has been a regular participant in the Giants' offseason conditioning program since it began on March 15, said one of the most important things he learned from former teammate Danny Clark, the veteran linebacker who last year gradually yielded snaps to the Sintim, is how to prepare as a full-time starter in the NFL.
"Danny always said to be a professional about the situation because it is professional football," Sintim said, adding that initially he resisted Clark's guidance before soon realizing the value of the veteran's experience.
"Even though you're working out and practicing and basically playing a game, this is your job, so it's important to take it as seriously as if you were working in an office."
Sintim smiled and added, "This isn't like college. You can be fired a lot quicker in this league if you're not performing, so that's something that Danny really drove home. I watched how he prepared every day and approached his job and the things I learned I think I can definitely use as a cornerstone for the type of professional I want to become."
What he wants to become is an every-down linebacker whom the coaches can trust in any situation.
"That's my goal. I want to play as much as possible, and to do that, I need for (the coaches) to develop faith and trust in me. And for that to happen, I have to practice and perform well."
For Sintim, it starts during the off-season conditioning program, where in addition to lifting weights and running, he has been studying a lot of film of both himself as well as other veteran linebackers whose game he admires. He's also anxiously awaiting the delivery of his playbook once new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell finishes putting his fingerprints on the Giants' base defensive scheme.
When that day comes and he and the rest of his teammates begin practicing during the spring Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Sintim believes that the coaches will see a very different player wearing jersey No. 97 than from a year ago.
"I want to show them that I've gotten to understand the game better,"
Sintim said of his offseason goals. "When you look at the guys who have been around for a lot of years in this league, it's because they are know the game and are smart players.
"The more I know about the game, the easier it will be for me as far as anticipating what the opponent is going to do. That's why guys like Antonio (Pierce) were such good players -- because they knew exactly what they were doing and what their opponents were doing and they could put themselves in a position to make a play."
Sintim knows however, that the transformation isn't going to happen overnight, but he also realized that if he remains committed to his present path and keeps his eye on the prize, he would get there.
"I'm not a rookie anymore, so there's no more excuses if I make a mistake. This year, I am expected to do more, know more, and be more mature about the game. Is it more pressure than when I was a rookie? I think it is, but it's not any more pressure than what I'm already putting on myself.
"It's a long road, and for me the first step is being here right now laying the foundation. I'm ready for the challenge and excited about the opportunities that are coming up."
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