ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) When Eli Manning broke the huddle and walked to the line of scrimmage the past three years, there was always a security blanket in front of him.
With the exception of a couple of games last season, the five big linemen protecting the New York Giants quarterback have been a constant. David Diehl was at left tackle, Rich Seubert at left guard, Shaun O’Hara at center, Chris Snee at right guard and Kareem McKenzie at right tackle.
Coming off an 8-8 season and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2004, there is speculation the makeup of the line will be changing, particularly the left side.
The predominant talk has Diehl moving from left tackle to left guard, with second-year pro Will Beatty taking over at tackle. The 31-year-old Seubert would become a backup.
Diehl and Seubert have heard the rumors and they knew exactly how to respond on the second day of training camp at the University at Albany.
“I have always been a team guy,” Diehl said after eating lunch. “I have always put the team first. That’s the case throughout my entire career. Having said that, I think I am the best left tackle on our team and I am one of the best ones in our division, and I intend to go out there and prove it.”
Whatever happens, Diehl knows he is going to have a job somewhere on the line.
The 29-year old, who made his first Pro Bowl last season, has started at left tackle for the past three years. He also has started at right tackle and both guard positions in his eight NFL seasons, compiling a string of 112 consecutive starts.
Entering his 10th season, Seubert admittedly didn’t have a good year in 2009. He missed the final two games because of a knee injury, but that wasn’t his biggest problem. He played all season with a bad shoulder that needed surgery in the offseason.
“It wasn’t great,” Seubert said. “In our game, everything is in our legs and shoulders and our punching guys. I am not making excuses, but I know I can play better than I did.”
The sometimes gruff Seubert also isn’t about to hand over the position without a fight.
“You know we all want to play,” said Seubert, one of the team’s practical jokers. “I want to play. He (Beatty) wants to play, Shaun and Chris and David and Kareem, too. It’s football and the best five guys are going to be out there playing. I know if I work hard, I will be one of those guys.”
There is no doubt Beatty is pushing to break into the lineup. The second-round draft pick out of Connecticut started four games at right tackle last season and played well with McKenzie sidelined by groin and knee injuries.
“They’re not going to just give me the spot because they drafted me in the second round,” Beatty said. “They expect me to win the spot. The only way I can win the spot is by being mentally and physically better than the guy in front of me.”
The irony of the line battle is that Beatty is really not competing with Diehl for the right tackle spot. He is just trying to show line coach Pat Flaherty that he is one of the team’s best five linemen.
If he does that, it might allow the team to exploit Diehl’s versatility and move him to left guard.
Diehl insists he is concentrating on being the starting left tackle.
“I am not worried about anything else,” he said. “I was focused all during minicamp and during the summer at that position and I know that it’s a battle between Beatty and I. I have worked extremely hard, been in battles before, know what it takes to be a football player. I know my work ethic and attitude and mentality. You are not going to move me.”
Seubert, who overcame a horrible broken leg in 2003 to return to the Giants, feels the same way.
“If I didn’t think I could play, I would have called it quits,” Seubert said. “The way I feel, I have many more good years of football in me. The shoulder feels good. My legs feel good. I’m excited to be up here and get it rolling.”
2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.