EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - When the Giants' practice ended on Tuesday and most of the team headed towards the locker room, Ereck Flowers stayed out on the field to work with the man who replaced him at left tackle. He did the same thing last week, too.
And maybe that's a sign that the Giants' young, enigmatic tackle really is ready to take advantage of his fresh start.
That wasn't a given two weeks ago when Flowers was still in Miami refusing to take part in the Giants' offseason program. According to Landon Collins, Flowers was apparently unhappy that the Giants signed left tackle Nate Solder. And while unconfirmed, that reason seemed to make a lot of sense.
What didn't make any sense was that Flowers wasn't willing to accept the "clean slate" given to him by the Giants, or their willingness to work with him in the hopes of reestablishing -- and continuing -- his NFL career. But that was then. Now the 24-year-old Flowers is back working with his teammates, and apparently working hard.
And so far, new coach Pat Shurmur seems to like what he sees.
"He's been great," Shurmur said after the Giants' fourth organized team activity (OTA) session. "He's been communicating well. He looks like he's having fun playing out there. He's worked in with the offensive line and he's done everything we've asked. And I anticipate that will continue."
If it does, that will be quite an impressive turnaround for the often sullen former first-round pick. He was part of the Giants' attitude problem last season -- an honor that got him benched for the season finale. He alienated everyone, including some coaches, his teammates and the media (though he rarely spoke to the press). And it didn't help that despite starting 46 games at left tackle over four years, his play was often poor.
But the new Giants' regime didn't see the 6-6, 329-pound former ninth overall pick (2015) as a bust that should be discarded. They saw a young player with experience and plenty of potential -- if only they could get him to work. At first they couldn't, which is why they explored the idea of trading him during the NFL draft.
He's working now, though, and that's all that seems to matter to Shurmur. The previous years or even the previous months when he was no-show? "That's all water under the bridge," Shurmur said, "and it really doesn't matter."
What matters now is that Flowers is working hard at making the transition from left tackle to right tackle, even though he wasn't initially receptive to the change. "He's actually done a really good job," Shurmur said. "He's an excellent athlete and he's handling the move pretty seamlessly. Through the first two weeks of his training, I think he's made improvements."
Flowers still has only been promised a chance to compete for the right tackle job, but the reality is he's the Giants' best bet to emerge as the starter. And if they can turn him into a solid, productive, NFL-caliber player, it might turn out to be one of the best and most amazing things Shurmur has done in Year 1.
And that's saying something, because so far Shurmur has had a magic touch. He inherited a dysfunctional, 3-13 team and he's turned them into Team Harmony this offseason. He got Odell Beckham to buy into his program and to show up, despite his lingering contract issues. He got Eli Apple to change his attitude and even make peace with Collins, who once called him "a cancer". He's gotten everyone to take advantage of their "clean slate," to forget the past and focus on the future.
Flowers was simply the last piece to finally come around.
Sure, he's probably not happy about being displaced at left tackle, or at the Giants' decision not to pick up the fifth-year option (for 2019) on his contract. And sure he wasted some precious developmental time by skipping first month of the offseason program. But the past is the past as far as Shurmur is concerned.
His promise of a "clean slate" to all his players was apparently very real.
"I don't worry about it because this is a voluntary setup," Shurmur said. "So he's here. We're glad he's here. And he's making improvements each day."