Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin practices rushing the passer at...

Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin practices rushing the passer at the Giants OTA. (May 30, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Sometimes when a guy has been away from the team for a while it can be hard to recognize him. Marvin Austin has made that task even more difficult. The defensive tackle who was last year’s second-round pick but missed the entire season with a pectoral injury showed up pat training camp with his signature dreadlocks still on the floor of a barber shop in North Carolina. Instead he’s now high and tight on the sides with a bit of a fade up top.

“For one they were getting irritating a little bit,” Austin said of the decision to chop the locks he’s had for 11 or 12 years. “I’ve had them for a long time and it’s just a transition. I think it’s a new beginning for me. I wanted to represent the team in the best light that I could and I thought it was harder for me to keep it groomed.”

It is a new start for Austin. He hasn’t played in a football game in two years. In 2010 he was suspended for his senior year at North Carolina. Last year he was injured in the preseason. The Giants are very curious to see what Austin is able to give them after such a long layoff. But Austin said he’s not curious at all.

“I’m a baler, man. That’s what I do,” he said. “I love playing football and I challenge myself to go out there and perform to the highest level. I know what I can do. It’s just going out there when I’m afforded the opportunity … Obviously you can’t get better at football without playing football, but I had a lot of mental reps. I’m a very visual learner. I don’t think it’s going to be hard for me to fit right in with the guys.”

Austin is working with the second team so far. He’s also working with some very established veterans at the position such as Shaun Rogers and Rocky Bernard. Linval Joseph is a returning starter at the position. And Chris Canty will be coming off PUP eventually. That’s a crowded group. Austin said he is learning a lot from them, even though his game is a little different from Rogers’.

“He’s a lot bigger than me,” Austin said, a sentence normally not uttered by a 6-2, 312-pound man.

Austin said he believes he’ll be up to his full speed when he takes the field in the first preseason game. He also knows that not everyone believes that.

“That’s their opinion,” he shrugged. “Everybody is entitled to their opinion. As long as Tom Coughlin and the organization think so, that’s all that matters.”

The first task is recognizing him with his new haircut. Austin said he doesn’t miss the locks at all.

“It’s good to wash my hair and it doesn’t take three days to dry,” he said. “That’s pretty cool.”

And if the Giants are able to recognize him with the new look based on the way he plays, it will be pretty cool too.

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