EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — On a day usually marked by disappointment, the New York Giants had one of the early feel-good stories of the NFL season. They gave cancer survivor Mark Herzlich a job, at least for now.
The young man who no one wanted to take a gamble in the draft because of his bout with a rare form of bone cancer is now a member of the Giants.
“Well it is 6:03pm an I am still a Giant God Is Good,” Herzlich tweeted after no one asked him to turn in his playbook.
How long Herzlich stays with the team remains to seen, but the Boston College linebacker who was signed as a free agent can at least say he made the final cut.
“Herzlich didn’t bat an eye the whole camp,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after making his roster moves, with the most difficult being a decision to switch punters. “Physically, he did everything you asked and more. I saw him improve literally week by week. He can play multiple positions. He’s very smart. He does an outstanding job on special teams. He’s told one time and he goes and does it.”
Herzlich, of Wayne, Pa., had six tackles, a sack, an interception and forced fumble in the preseason, and looked good on special teams — a weakness for the Giants in recent seasons.
The 23-year-old felt he did all he could to make the team in training camp, adding that he still saw room for improvement.
It is clear that Herzlich was on the roster bubble, and teams always make moves before their season opener. So it is uncertain whether he will be on the roster for the opener at Washington.
Herzlich was one of four rookie linebackers to make the team, joining fifth-rounder Greg Jones, sixth-rounder Jacquian Williams and free agent Spencer Paysinger.
The best competition in camp was for the punting job — and Steve Weatherford edged Matt Dodge, who was inconsistent as a rookie. Dodge’s biggest mistake was failing to punt out of bounds on the final play in the December meltdown against Philadelphia, a blunder that resulted in DeSean Jackson returning the punt 65-yards for a game-winning touchdown.
Weatherford, a seven-year veteran who spent the past two years with the Jets, averaged 46.2 yards with a 43.9 net in the preseason. Dodge, who was booed by fans in the Giants’ preseason home opener, averaged 46.4 yards with a 34.9 net.
Weatherford is a directional punter, something that obviously appealed to coach Tom Coughlin.
Coughlin said Dodge improved this season.
“I saw his growth and maturity and focus, which was illustrated most by a game here at home when he was booed by our fans and he punted the ball 63 yards and after that I didn’t hear much,” Coughlin said.
The Giants also placed Sage Rosenfels, last year’s backup quarterback, on injured reserve, giving the job to David Carr, who was Eli Manning’s backup in 2008-09.
Rosenfels has not played for three weeks because of strep throat, an infection that also led to back problems.
New York also terminated the contracts of six veterans: receiver Michael Clayton, tight end Daniel Coats, guard Ikechuku Ndukwe, center Chris White, defensive tackle Gabe Watson and placekicker Rhys Lloyd, who has handled the kicking duties the past three games with Lawrence Tynes battling an injury to his right leg.
Tynes on Friday proclaimed himself ready for the season opener.
Of the 19 players waived, three were draft picks a year ago — Dodge (seventh round) and linebackers Phillip Dillard (fourth round) and Adrian Tracy (sixth round).
Also waived were quarterback Ryan Perrilloux; running backs Andre Brown and Charles Scott; tight end Christian Hopkins; receiver Darius Reynaud; tackles Jamon Meredith and Jarriel King; center Jim Cordle; defensive ends Ayanaga Okpokowuruk, Craig Marshall, Alex Hall, Justin Trattou and Dwayne Hendricks; and defensive backs Joe Burnett, David Sims and Jerrard Tarrant.
Safety Brian Jackson (hip) was waived/injured.
Coughlin, who is trying to get the Giants back to the playoffs after missing out the past two seasons, said this is a tough day to be a coach.
“Some of the guys are really hurt,” he said. “Some of them were shocked. This is a day when their expectations — you teach them to aim high and they pretty much all aimed high. There was some reality there, too. When you tell them that this time around, unfortunately, it’s not going to work, it’s a difficult thing. It’s part of the business. I’ve done it for a lot of years. We do things as a team here. It doesn’t get any easier.”