New York Giants safety Landon Collins has seen cornerback Eli Apple struggle this season both on and off the field.
As a leader and a teammate, Collins is trying to do his part to help Apple get through the rest of this season.
“I had a sit down with him–a couple of us had a sit-down with him–and we just said, ‘Man regardless of the situation, we got your back. You’re our brother,’” Collins said Wednesday.
Collins didn’t say exactly what has been bothering Apple, who this year has not only seen his play slip on the field but who has at times engaged in destructive behavior that has led to poor optics, such as returning from the bye week a day late, reportedly coming close to walking out on a team meeting after teammates came down on his hard for a couple of plays in which Apple’s effort was deemed lacking.
More recently, Apple caught some in-game tweeting in which he retweeted an Ohio State fan club’s tweet celebrating Cowboys running back Rod Smith’s 81-yard touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Giants.
The use of social media by club personnel, including inactive players, 90 minutes before a game, during a game and for a period after is against league rules.
“I don’t want to pass judgement on a kid’s attitude or character,” interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said Wednesday. “The tweeting obviously was very disappointing. I think I mentioned that the other day. We got past that with an apology. We’re men.
“He’s going to have to deal with some repercussions because of that. He’s a young man that I’m into building up and not breaking down.”
In addition to his lapses in judgement, Apple, who declined to speak with the media Wednesday, has also had to deal with his mother’s health issues that led to brain surgery last month.
Apple was excused from practice to be there while his mother underwent the knife the week before Thanksgiving, and was inactive that weekend due to the practice reps he missed.
Apple was again inactive the following week, Thanksgiving night, because as former head coach Ben McAdoo explained at the time, the cornerback hadn’t gotten in enough practice reps.
Apple then developed a hip injury the following week and has now missed four straight games and counting.
“He’s got a lot of personal things going on at this point in his life,” Collins said. “I’m surprised he’s still here and didn’t step away from the game because most players would. But he’s got a lot going on in his situation.”
In trying to build Apple back up, Spagnuolo and the coaching staff are taking baby steps with the second-year cornerback.
“Practiced today – not with the starting group, but got reps in there–worked with the scout team,” Spagnuolo said. “He did some special teams reps, so we’re kind of getting him, trying to oil him back up.”
Did that mean Apple was back on track to be active Sunday?
“We’ll see where he is at the end of the week,” Spagnuolo said. “At the end, you got to make a decision on 46 players, so that’ll all unfold as the week goes.”
Collins, who is the second Giants defensive back to speak up and pledge his support to of Apple—cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did so Monday—said that Apple is a key part of the defense.
“He has the most talent in the world. He can do some amazing things,” Collins said.
“He already has a bad rep with the refs, they talk about his holding. Other teams will tell the refs he holds, and they’ll keep an eye out for him,” Collins said.
“So other than that, he’s a great cover corner. He understands the game, understands our concepts of what we’re trying to put into the game and he does great thing.”
That’s why Collins said the defense needs him and why he hopes that Apple is able to successfully resolve whatever issues are gnawing at him,
“We need him to want to be here and not fighting against us or fighting against the coaches,” Collins said.
“Because if he’s fighting against the coaches or the organization or whatever he’s fighting against in his head, we don’t need him fighting us because that causes conflict.”