ALBANY, N.Y. -- Having also missed the Super Bowl with a
broken leg, linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka has a good idea why
four-time Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey became alienated with
New York Giants following their run to the NFL title.
The pain from the broken bone is bad enough, Kiwanuka said
Saturday between practices on the second day of training camp at
the University at Albany.
There is also the mental pain of missing a sport you love and
then a stabbing pain when someone says that if the team won without
you, you might not be needed after all.
"That guy, he put his heart and soul into the organization for
a long time," Kiwanuka said of Shockey. "He was a vocal leader,
an energy guy and he was kind of the face and voice of this team
for a long time. So for guys to say, and people here to say we are
better off without him as a player, it stings a lot, especially
when you play as hard as he did."
Shockey never seemed to recover. He complained to the team about
his role in the offense and later accused the organization of
leaking things to the media.
When minicamp rolled around in June, he refused to either talk
to the media or to stand on the field for even a few minutes to
watch practice. He was nursing a badly sprained ankle at the time.
"I understand how he got to that point because like I said, it
stung a little bit that we couldn't be out there," Kiwanuka said.
"But it had nothing to do with the Super Bowl run. It had to do
with the fact we are men with jobs, and we weren't able to produce
and contribute to the team. That's a tough thing to do."
The Giants on Monday made sure there would not be any
distractions this year, trading Shockey to the New Orleans Saints
for two draft picks.
Kiwanuka, who broke his leg in mid-November, a month before
Shockey was sidelined, said the tight end's life is focused on
"For him, everything is magnified when he can't do what he's
meant to do," Kiwanuka said. "He is a tight end in the NFL and he
is one of the best out there. When you are that driven and that
focused on your life and your job, and everything you do revolves
around that and then you can't do it one day, that's got to be
Kiwanuka made the transition from defensive end to strongside
linebacker last season and seemed to be learning on the job when he
broke his left leg against Detroit on Nov. 18 and missed the rest
of the season and the playoffs.
"The fact that I wasn't a part of it is not something I am
happy about," Kiwanuka said. "At the same time, I was so proud of
these guys and so proud of being a part of the Super Bowl, all the
other stuff faded away when the confetti started flying."
Kiwanuka is ahead of schedule in his recovery. The Giants had
planned to have him practice once at day at the start of camp, but
he did make both practices on Friday and on Saturday.
"His attitude is this: if you tell him to be in there twice,
he's in there three times," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's a very
focused guy. I've looked at all of those things that happened --
there is no feeling sorry for himself. He's done a nice job out
here in the first few practices."
Kiwanuka has some residual effects from his injury, but insists
he would be able to play if the Giants had a game.
"It has been a long time since I've been on the field,"
Kiwanuka said. "I'm just excited to be back out there, I'm not
anxious to have any days off yet."
The former Boston College star and first-round draft pick
acknowledges he still has a lot to learn about playing linebacker.
"This is my second year at linebacker and I know some people
are going to get some stuff faster than I am," he said. "At the
same time, I am studying (hard) and I know a lot more of the
defense than I did a year ago. I am confident where I am at."