Giants LB Connor Barwin embracing role as mentor to young defenders
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Connor Barwin hasn’t been practicing with the Giants — he’s day-to-day with some soreness that probably came from being 32-years-old and not having spent the offseason working with a team — but he continues to make an impact as they march toward the opener.
Specifically, he’s been in the ear of the younger players and has embraced his role as a mentor on the defense.
“I’ve been fortunate to learn from some really great coaches,” Barwin said “[Current Rams defensive coordinator] Wade [Phillips] early in my career taught me a lot. I had [current Jets linebacker Ccoach and Hall of Famer] Kevin Greene who taught me a lot. And then [Giants linebackers coach Bill McGovern] is here.
“Really, I’m just trying to share what I’ve learned over my career,” Barwin said on Tuesday after watching a joint practice with the Lions. “I think I had older guys when I was young teach me and help me.”
Barwin said he’s had some great coaches help him, too. He mentioned current Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, current Jets linebackers coach (and Hall of Famer) Kevin Greene, and Giants linebackers coach Bill McGovern. But, he said, even though they were smart and insightful, they weren’t teammates.
“I just understood that there’s a difference between hearing it from a coach and hearing it from a player,” he said. “I try to help where I can and show them what I’ve learned and what I’ve had success with. The young guys have been really receptive, which is good. It’s a good sign.”
When he came into the NFL, Barwin said the veteran who embraced him was former Texans defensive tackle Antonio Smith.
“He was just a great, great teammate,” Barwin said. “Really one of the best I had, and really a great football player. Unselfish, was great at rushing the passer. He understood the idea of how a whole defensive line works together. Me and him had a great couple of years playing together early on when I was in Houston.”
Now, Barwin is trying to step into that job. His star pupil this year has been rookie Lorenzo Carter. Before Barwin was hurt he and Carter were the outside linebackers for the second unit and creating regular havoc for the Giants’ second offensive unit.
Barwin raved about Carter.
“The sky’s the limit for him right now,” Barwin said. “He’s still young, he’s got a lot to learn. I try to remember what it was like my rookie year. A lot of times, he’s playing everything cool like he’s got it. But I know what it was like being there before. He’s got a lot to learn, a lot to grow. He’s got all the tools. He can run, he’s fast, he’s got natural instincts when he gets to the top. So, I’m excited for him.”
When the Giants signed Barwin, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said he knew that he wasn’t getting an every-down player.
“As these guys age, if you manage them properly you can get some quality snaps out of them,” Gettleman said. “Now it’s about quality snaps, it’s not about quantity. Connor still has some quality snaps in him.”
And some value when he’s not on the field as well.