ALBANY - Brandon Jacobs used to be the guy. Now he's apparently just one of the guys. And he says he's all right with that.
"I'm just out here to try and help us win," the running back said Monday when asked about the change in backfield pecking order that has Ahmad Bradshaw taking the first rep most of the time. "No matter who gets the first carry or what, I'm still there and I'm not dead yet."
He might not be dead, but there were plenty of times last year when the Giants' running attack seemed lifeless. Most of that fell to Jacobs, who was criticized for not running hard enough through holes. Though there were other issues involved, most of that decreased production had to do with Jacobs' playing the entire year on an injured knee. He had surgery in January and said he feels healthier this summer than he has since 2007, his third year in the league.
"I didn't have a good year last year," he said. "I wasn't explosive. I was hurt and I couldn't plant my right foot in the ground and push off. I didn't have any strength in it at all. That whole year, I never went out and made an excuse, and I'm not doing that now. I'm just saying we had a bad season."
Now he and Bradshaw, who also had offseason surgery, are trying to make sure 2010 is a better one. Running backs coach Jerald Ingram downplayed the order in which the two are practicing, saying that it has more to do with Bradshaw's needing reps with Eli Manning than any big change in philosophy. But he also made it clear that the Giants are counting on both backs, and in some games, they'll be riding Bradshaw more than Jacobs.
"We're not going to get hung up on who's the starting running back," Ingram said. "It's who does what when that play is called . . . We're trying to spread it out there. Everybody understands that they have a role in the game plan and we'll just go from there."
The hierarchy among running backs isn't the only change for Jacobs. He said he switched the focus of his offseason conditioning from strength to flexibility.
"I came out of the womb strong, I don't need that," he said of eschewing dead lifts and power lifts for more subtle core work. "I didn't look to build strength, I just looked to maintain strength. I just need to be more flexible. My muscles need to be more flexible so it wouldn't be all the pulling muscles. That's the type of stuff that I decided to work on just because it's a long grind, and you have to last."