Giants' Julian Love during Giants minicamp at the team's training facility...

Giants' Julian Love during Giants minicamp at the team's training facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 8, 2022. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Brian Daboll is anxious to keep his players fresh heading into the season, and one of his methods resulted in an unusual sighting in Wednesday’s minicamp practice. Near the end of the session, he instructed his players to remove their helmets and then line up for several plays in a walkthrough situation. The only one with his helmet on was quarterback Daniel Jones, but that was presumably so he could hear the plays being called in.

Julian Love wasn’t quite sure how to feel about the move.

“It could be seen as both ways, good and bad,” the Giants’ fourth-year safety said. “Bad in the sense that there’s a lot of competitive talk in the locker room each day about who won the day. Heated battles.”

If it were up to Love, the helmets would have stayed on, and the contact would have continued.

“I don’t think we were given enough of a chance to compete, so yeah, there’s that conversation. I think defensively, we wanted to get after it a little more.”

Sounds like a guy who’s ready to start the season.

Like, now.

This is a particularly important time for Love – for a lot of reasons. First and foremost:

“This is a big year for the team,” the former Notre Dame star said. “I just want to see us succeed.”

Another factor:

“I’m in the last year of my deal,” he said.

Nothing like a contract year to add even more motivation to a player who may not have the high visibility of fellow safety Xavier McKinney, but whose presence is even more important in light of Logan Ryan’s surprising release earlier in the off-season. Former GM Dave Gettleman signed Ryan to a three-year, $30 million deal in December 2020, but he was one of the first to go in new GM Joe Schoen’s off-season roster purge.

Ryan was an important locker room leader with a highly respected voice on team-related matters. But Love is anxious to fill any leadership void created by Ryan’s ouster.

“I’ve always been a guy who has been looked to [by teammates],” said Love, a fourth-round pick in 2019. “I’m just being myself.”

And despite a major roster restructuring, some of it necessitated by the bloated salary cap left behind by Gettleman, Love remains optimistic about what lies ahead. For the team and for himself.

He’s particularly enthused about what could be an expanded role under new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. He got a taste of that on Wednesday when he lined up as a pass rusher on one play.

“Yeah, that’s the big body package, and clearly that’s why I’m in it,” quipped the 5-11, 195-pound Love. “But year, mixing some stuff up, [Martindale] feels comfortable with me doing different things, and I feel real comfortable.”

And maybe his sack total might increase.

“I have .5 sacks,” he said. “I’m trying to find another half-sack this year so I can get to whole numbers. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Martindale has a willing participant in Love, a cerebral player who has been understatedly impactful in the Giants’ defense when called upon. But he’s now one of the team’s most experienced defensive players, even if he’s just 24 years old.

He called the fact that he and fourth-year defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence are the longest-tenured Giants’ defensive players “crazy to think about.” But he welcomes the new role as “elder statesman,” especially in Ryan’s absence.

“I’m really trying to be a resource for all the young guys to get them going,” he said. “I’m just trying to be that personable guy. I’m not super old. I’m pretty young, so I’m right there to fill in the gap and kind of be that leader for everybody.”

He’ll have ample opportunity. And if Martindale can do for Love what he has done for other young defensive players during a 10-year run with the Ravens, then it will be the best of both worlds for Love: a defense worth respecting and a new contract in the not-too-distant future.

“We’re gonna play the season out,” said Love, who hasn’t had contract extension talks with the team. “I have to earn my keep, and I’m going to try to do that, for sure.”

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