It’s been the type of week that would have mangled Wayne Gallman’s mind and shredded his confidence just a few short years ago.
First he was inactive last Sunday against the Bears, a healthy scratch. That was hard enough, but when Saquon Barkley left the field with his torn ACL, Gallman did not have a helmet to grab or a uniform to wear onto the field. There was no pitching in. All he could do was remain on the sideline.
Then, once Barkley’s fate for the rest of the season became apparent early in the week, it seemed as if Gallman would play a large role in replacing him. Gallman sprung to the top of the unofficial depth chart.
A day later, though, the Giants signed veteran Devonta Freeman, adding a two-time Pro Bowler to the mix. Someone who will, once he gets up to speed with the playbook, undoubtedly steal snaps away from Gallman.
And on this Sunday? Well, there is a chance Gallman will be the starting running back for the Giants in their first game of the season without Barkley. There is also a chance that he plays little to no role in the running game.
Such roller coasters used to drive Gallman crazy.
"Man, I’m so much better mentally," Gallman told Newsday on Friday, admitting that earlier in his career he would not have been able to handle such swings of doubt and uncertainty.
And there were plenty. He ended his rookie year as the starter but was dethroned when the Giants drafted Barkley in his second season. Last year, his third with the Giants, he had a golden opportunity when Barkley sprained his ankle. Gallman didn’t even finish a game as his primary replacement, suffering a concussion that kept him out for longer than Barkley was sidelined. By the end of 2019 he was inactive in game for which he was healthy, standing in the bench area wondering what his future would hold.
All of the angst from those experiences has transformed into a sort of Zen for Gallman.
"It’s a good thing," he said of those tribulations. "I’m glad I went through those things to prepare me for the things that are to come later on in the future. Whatever happens, happens. Nothing is in your hands."
"He’s attacked every single day, especially this camp," tight end Evan Engram said of Gallman. "He came in and really attacked camp and has always stayed ready. Wayne is a real laidback guy. He definitely understands the opportunity that presents itself, but he’s still coming in, attacking the work the way he always has."
So when there were no direct conversations with coaches about his role now that Barkley is done for the season, that was okay. When he didn’t get a pat on the back and a pep talk about how important he is to the offense, he didn’t sweat it. When no one braced him for the addition of Freeman or explained to him how the work in the committee of three running backs would play out, it was cool.
"We don’t feel any need to explain to every player because within every game plan, every player has a role," Joe Judge said. "Anybody coming in doesn’t replace somebody else who’s already here. They just add to our team. There are different strengths to every player brought in. We’re going to have to work to make sure we play to every player’s individual strengths. But we’re relying on all three of those backs very heavily… All three of them have to play an integral part of us having success."
Gallman’s job is likely to change week-to-week. That’s something Lewis, who played for the Patriots, knows about. It’s something Gallman is just getting used to.
"I just go out and do what I’m told," he said. "As the week progresses you really get an idea for how the game is going to go and how much you are going to be featured. But I’ve been only focused on knowing the plays, knowing the playbook, and being ready for my opportunity."
Such uncertainty would have consumed him early in his career. As would the trajectory of his career in this final season of his rookie contract with the Giants and his likely last chance to make an impact with the team that drafted him. Now? It’s barely even a flicker of thought.
"I’m just going out there and playing ball," he said. "I can’t tell the future, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know I can control what I do."
Anything and everything beyond that isn’t worth worrying about.