Many reminders of the New York Giants’ dreadful 2017 season have been pruned from the team headquarters. The most notable exception, perhaps, is cornerback Eli Apple.
Little more needs to be said about Apple’s troubled sophomore season, one that featured personal issues, social media gaffes, and overall inconsistent play. All signs pointed to his departure, but the Giants’ new management group, namely general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur, are willing to forget about the past as they hope to unlock the 2016 first-round pick’s true potential.
Shurmur, speaking after the Giants’ first organized team activity on Monday afternoon, indicated that, so far, his trust has been well-invested.
“I’m sure glad that I truly believe in a clean slate,” Shurmur said. “He’s been nothing but professional, he’s been out here competing, he’s one of the guys that has been here almost every single day and I haven’t seen anything that somebody might have thought I heard. He’s been great.”
Apple likewise faced reporters on Monday, speaking publicly for the first time since his indiscretions with the media kicked off a troubled week that led to his being suspended for the final regualr-season game.
In a departure from his previous brash encounters with the media last year, Apple appeared remorseful for the way last season went and expressed gratitude for the clean slate afforded to him by the team’s new leadership group.
“I’m just trying to be a better player, a better person, and a better teammate this year,” Apple said. “I’m just going to fine tune everything, come in with a different attitude and just be positive out there on the field and just do everything that I can to make myself better as a player, and everybody else better as a team.”
One of Gettleman’s first declarations as Giants general manager was to offer the oft-quoted “blank slate” to Apple, who was suspended for the final game of the 2017 season. Asked how he’d define that term, Apple said it meant “putting things behind me and just trying to continue to move forward and going out here and just have great energy on the field.”
Shurmur admitted that he won’t be fully able to understand Apple’s struggle, considering he wasn’t in New York to experience it last season. However, he’s hoping the idea of blank slate won’t be exclusive to Apple, as he’d like the team to follow his example, as 2018 provides a fresh start, a chance to exorcise the demons of 3-13.
“What you’re trying to do is inspire these guys to play at their best and I hear things, but I can’t truly say I know exactly what happened because I wasn’t here,” Shurmur said. “But, I do know this, there are guys out here that are very prideful, they’re very professional and they want to do really good things and Eli is one of them.”
Apple, 22, expressed a desire to better communicate with teammates. In an attempt to return to a good football mindset, Apple reported he has spent the offseason speaking with the team’s veterans and sharing “good quality time with good people”. That group likely includes safety Landon Collins, as Apple briefly mentioned the relationship between the two as “great”.
Despite external speculation throughout the offseason, Apple never truly worried about his roster spot.
“I was just continuing to just take it day by day and I’m so appreciative just to be here now,” he recalled. “So, it’s a great feeling that they told me I have a clean slate and now I can put stuff behind me and just get better.”
Lost in the chaos of Apple’s downtrodden season was the memories of a promising rookie season, one where he tallied 51 tackles, seven pass deflections and an interception. Though it was a year to forget, Apple plans to use the incident filled season as inspiration, eager to atone for his errors.
“Was I embarrassed? Of course. Nobody wants to go out the way I went out. I mean, it was all over the place, so of course,” Apple bluntly said. “(Last season) was a little up and down. Now it’s just about being even-keel and moving forward.”