Rookie Justin Pugh On Verge Of Rare Feat
"Justin Pugh is four games from accomplishing a rare Giants feat.
The Giants’ first round draft choice this year, Pugh has started every game at right tackle. If he starts each of the final four, beginning Sunday in San Diego, he will become a) the first Giants rookie to start an entire 16-game season since defensive tackle Barry Cofield in 1995; b) the first offensive lineman to do it since David Diehl 10 years ago; and c) the first Giants’ first round draft choice to do so since Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1981.
Pugh said it is important for him to line up every week not only because he loves football and wants to help the Giants win, but for what it demonstrates to his teammates.
“You’re just showing the guys in this locker room that you’re reliable and this organization can count on you to go out there and play every snap, every week and you take pride in that,” Pugh said today. “Last week, we’re there in Washington during pregame and you see (linebacker) London Fletcher, who has started (210) straight games. It’s something that’s really impressive to see someone do that and obviously you aspire to play every game every time you’re available.”
Pugh has come a long way from opening night in Dallas, but he still gets nervous and dry heaves before every game, as he has his entire football life. Chris Snee, the 10-year veteran guard who played next to him before going on injured reserve because of a hip injury, always vomits just prior to kickoff.
“In our position, doing my job, you’re protecting someone’s livelihood, their career,” Pugh said. “You’re protecting someone’s health, the quarterback, the running backs, going down and helping the receivers out. I think other positions, if you’re a receiver and you drop a ball, nobody’s getting hurt. If you mess up and whiff on somebody and he hits the quarterback on his blind side, he could get hurt. I think that’s probably one of the reasons why offensive linemen are like that.”
Pugh played left tackle for three years at Syracuse before the Giants selected him 19th overall in this year’s NFL Draft. He played on the left side early in training camp and the preseason. But when David Diehl, then playing right tackle, was forced from the lineup after undergoing thumb surgery, Pugh switched sides.
Although he downplayed it then, Pugh admits the move from left to right required a significant adjustment.
“Everything is just opposite,” he said. “I’m not used to double team blocks with your left foot. I guess people wouldn’t see it if they’ve never played the position before but to switch everything - you have to protect your inside, because it’s the quickest way to the quarterback. So when you’re switching from that left side to the right side, now all of a sudden everything is opposite, so your left hand, which used to be the outside punch, now becomes the most important part of your technique. Just pushing your weight off a different foot, it’s very different. But I’ve definitely learned through the weeks and playing against guys. I’ve gotten better and better each week and now I feel very comfortable there. I felt comfortable in the beginning of the year but now I feel even better.”