When Ballard and another TE - Travis Beckum - went down with torn knee ligaments in the Super Bowl, the Giants were down to one: Bear Pascoe.
This summer, Pope is trying to build the unit back up with Pascoe, free-agent Martellus Bennett and raw rookie Adrien Robinson. Pope spoke to reporters this week about his task and charges:
Q: When you arrived at camp, the tight end situation was one of the question marks. Are there any answers yet?A: Seems like that has been the case for a number of years because of the migration of players. We do have more new faces now then maybe we ever have. It’s very rare to lose two players in one game at the end of the season like we did, so we’ve been trying very hard to replace those guys with athletes and I think we’ve been able to do that. The thing you don’t replace is the experience and the amount of playing time, and the rules and regulations that we’re playing by now disallow us as many opportunities as we might have had in the past. We’re just learning as fast as we can to catch up.
Q: Actually Bear was the only one who had any experience with the system coming in.A: With this system, that’s correct. Beckum had played quite a bit, but of course he’s probably not going to be able to start the season with us. Bear is like the lone wolf like he was a couple of years ago when we were here and he was the only one standing if you can think back to that time because he’s a tough cowboy. Hopefully he can continue to be that.
Q: You’ve dealt with a lot of different personalities, a lot of different shapes and sizes.A: That’s what they say about me.
Q: In that realm, Martellus Bennett is what?A: I think he’s athletic. We did a good job in that selection I believe as a free agent. He has bought into our system. He’s learning a language; he’s going from Greek to Latin, because very obviously the system he played in is probably the third or fourth system he has played in through college and in Dallas. He understands very quickly the concept, but you have to translate into our verbiage. And that’s probably been the thing that slowed him down. It’s hard to evaluate him until they know exactly what they’re doing and they can play at the speed of the game. We aren’t there yet.
Q: What about his personality?A: Personality hasn’t been in the times I’ve dealt with him. You people might have had more opportunities then I have, but he’s been part of our all in. He’s been helpful in the meetings. He’s talked to the young players. Yesterday, they had the chance for he and Cruz to both catch a ball in the end zone. He pulled away and let Cruz have the ball. Might have been nice for him to catch a pass, but I did think that that showed that he’s bought into our system a little bit and that was a good team thing to do. That’s what we are. We’re not about individuals and I think we have so many other good players here, who live by that philosophy that Tom preaches and what has helped us to win. I think he’s joined in with that.
Q: He’s been a colorful person with us. He’s funny and free flowing speaking. When he gets onto the field is he the same way or is he all business?A: Not around me, but I think he has an outgoing personality. He’s a bright guy and he likes to be a little creative, which is fine as long as it stays within the confines of all of you. In our system, he’s going to be one of us and that’s why we’ve been able to win because we’ve been so closely united and veered away from those. I have had some exotic personalities, but I wouldn’t put him in the top five.
Q: He has not referred himself to you as the ‘Black Unicorn’?A: I don’t even know what that means. Is that something I should know about? I think he’s a little bit like some other players we have had here. He does some things impulsively and probably says some things, but in my opinion that’s a harmless thing. That’s just a part of his personality and as long as it doesn’t affect his play on the field. It does, as I watch our other players on the team, they seem to have [inaudible] very well with him. He’s got a good chemistry started with his quarterback. I don’t know anything about the unicorn business. I’ll take a look through and see if he’s [inaudible].
Q: Mike, our focus has been on Martellus and Bear. Can you tell us how Purvis and Robinson and Hopkins are doing?A: Robinson has really been disadvantaged because number one, his class didn’t graduate until so late in June. He missed almost all of our spring work except for the minicamp and that set him back quite a bit. Like a lot of players who are coming out at this position now he played in that college offense that is so wide open he wasn’t even in a three-point stance. He didn’t even line up beside the tackle and he didn’t conjunct blocks with the line at all because their offense was just so wide open. This has been a whole new thing for him so he’s been a little bit slower to move into that role. Here at our place you have to be a blocker first and then you grow into the passing game. If you think back to all the players that we’ve had here that have done well, that’s been the way we have developed them so he has to do that. You can see the athleticism; if you watch him in the one-on-one things against the defensive players he’s very athletic. He does have a large number of not flaws but areas that he hasn’t had any experience in. Until he makes up that time that he missed in the spring he won’t fix those flaws. It’ll happen but it’s not going to happen as quickly as it would have if we had had him in those nine practices in the spring.
Q: Do you think Bear Pascoe could be a breakout player?A: Like I’ve said about Bennett, these guys have sometimes played secondary roles to someone else. Their opportunity to be the starting guy will play itself out. A year ago at this time we didn’t know any more about Jake Ballard than we really know about Bear Pascoe in that role right now. If Bear can do what Jake was able to do and be a good player at the point of attack and be someone that the quarterback can trust and have chemistry with then anything can happen.
Q: Bennett is a guy that you’ve competed against twice a year for the last few seasons. When you did see him what were your impressions of him?A: Well I do sometimes look at the other team’s offense just to see what they’re doing. I saw most of these guys at the combine, which I’ve always had a big involvement in, so I get to know them a little bit. I do get to see how they are progressing when they’re on other teams. I do know that Dallas has a great player in Witten, so he [Bennett] never really got the opportunity to be the guy. I told him if he came here now you have a chance to not be Jason Witten Jr. anymore. So Bear has the opportunity to move into Jake Ballard’s role. Bennett has the opportunity to not be somebody’s younger brother and he can move into that tight end role.
That’s what we’re going to practice for and play for and see what happens as this thing plays out. I do think that in Bennett’s circumstance he made a lot of plays for them, he’s a good blocker. He’s a huge big powerful man and they did use him in more secondary pass games roles. He did catch some screens and do some things like that but he didn’t play a tremendous numbers of snaps for them. He’ll play more for us early on in preseason because we use a lot of two tight-end set where he and Pascoe will both be in the game. I’ve talked to him about his conditioning because he may not have had enough opportunities but we’ll find out if he has 8 or 10 two-minute plays if he’s still standing at the end of the half or at the end of the game. Hopefully he will be. I’ve been pretty impressed with all of these guys conditioning. Someone mentioned earlier about these younger guys that we’ll have to see during the game because we haven’t had enough full speed practice reps here. All these guys are going to play in the game, they’re all going to get a chance to play and we’ll just see how they do. I say to them we don’t cut anybody, you cut yourself. If you play well you stay, if you don’t you don’t. That’s just the way it goes.
Q: There’s so much uncertainty, do you like the fact that they’re competing?A: I think that brings out the best in players. Yes, when they have other players that are always there to match against and see how the production goes. I think that’s very obviously an advantage and that’s a good point because we don’t want to see any drop off. We’d like to see a better effort from the next guy who goes in, but we’d like to have a model that goes in there first and shows all these younger players how to do it. We don’t really have that right now and that’s little disconcerting. They think they’re doing well but compared to who? That’s what we’ll have to build and I’ve encouraged these couple of older players because we need a model here. It’s so much easier to coach from a guy who can really do it well and let him be the example for you.
transcript courtesy Giants communications dept