EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - For the first time, Ereck Flowers admitted the obvious: He wasn't happy when the Giants signed Nate Solder, or that he was forced to move from left tackle to right. "Of course," he said, it bothered him. How could it not?
So maybe it took him a little too long to get over the hurt, but Flowers is now able to dismiss that emotion. "It's … whatever, now," is how he put it. His focus instead, he insisted, is on making that transition to right tackle, trying to get better as a player, and proving to his coaches and critics that he can still play in the NFL.
And perhaps even more importantly, he wants to prove that to himself, too.
"I want to prove myself every time I hit the field," he said on Wednesday during the second day of Giants minicamp. "I want to get better every year. Mainly I just want to do it for myself. It's not to prove to anybody else. It's to prove to myself I can play at a certain level."
Four years into his NFL career, it's not at all clear where that level is. Flowers has started 46 games over three years, all at left tackle, with play that mostly ranged from mediocre to bad. As the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft he's been largely a disappointment -- so much so that the Giants declined to pick up his fifth-year option for 2019 back in May, meaning he'll be a free agent at the end of the season.
But Flowers is still only 24 years old, and he's got the size (6-6, 329) and strength that implies limitless potential. Add in three valuable years of experience and the Giants seem convinced that he can thrive at right tackle. And they've put enough faith in him that they didn't bring in anyone to truly compete with Flowers for the right tackle job.
Flowers said he appreciated the show of faith, particularly from new head coach Pat Shurmur. "But obviously I've got to go out and do my job," he said. "Yeah it's great, but I'm still focused on what I need to do."
There's a long way to go, of course, but it did sound like a bit of a new Flowers during a very rare interview with the media. Even on the very few occasions he did speak in the past he gave mostly one-word answers and didn't reveal much at all. It wasn't just the media, either. Teammates were growing frustrated with his sullen demeanor, too.
After the Giants signed Solder and switched Flowers' position it didn't appear that things would get better. He skipped much of the offseason program, including a voluntary minicamp. The Giants even discussed trading him during the NFL draft. Only after he switched agents and hired Drew Rosenhaus, who had a conversation about Flowers with GM Dave Gettleman, did Flowers finally decide to show up for the organized team activity (OTA) sessions.
But once he did, teammates and coaches began noticing a difference in attitude and work ethic. He was frequently spotted working after practice with Solder during the spring. And as much as he was bothered by the position switch, he sounds committed now to making sure it works.
"It's an adjustment, but it's going well," he said. "Just chopping wood every day, trying to get better."
If he does, maybe he can salvage his NFL career. He certainly won't get any more chances with the Giants. He's due about $2.4 million this year and the GM who drafted him, Jerry Reese, was fired late last season. If it weren't for the salary cap implications and the fact the Giants don't really have any better options on the roster, he might have already been cut.
Instead, he has a chance, and the pressure will be on him because he's already viewed as the weakest link of a rebuilt offensive line.
But the pressure he feels, he said, isn't coming from anyone else. It's coming from him.
"I think every player has the pressure to want to perform at a certain level," he said. "I think that's the only kind of pressure you would kind of see. I just want to go out there and leave what I've got on the field. I want to play the best I can play."