When the Giants waived Josh Rivas on Sunday, they told him to stay ready because no one really knows what can happen in the NFL. It’s a pretty standard message teams deliver when making cuts, the pro football equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me.”
“I was like ‘OK, whatever,” Rivas said of the experience of being cut for the first time in his life which had left him in a shocked state of disbelief to begin with. “I assumed they meant it was for a different team or something.”
So when his agent called on Thursday to tell Rivas he was going back to New York, the rookie offensive lineman made a logical assumption.
“The Jets?” he asked.
Rivas — pronounced Ree-vis, as in the former All-Pro cornerback, but with a different spelling — was re-signed by the Giants on Friday morning, back practicing with the team on Friday afternoon, and almost certainly will see a large number of snaps in Sunday’s preseason game against the Bengals. With the offensive line devastated by injuries, the Giants needed to add healthy bodies to get them through this stretch of the preseason, and Rivas’ knowledge of the playbook put him at the top of that list.
To paraphrase Wellington Mara: Once a Giant, twice a Giant, and all in the same week.
The Giants also signed rookie lineman Chris Owens, who was recently waived by the Steelers. Owens was part of a workout for potential players on Friday morning at 7 a.m. and practiced with the team a few hours later.
Unlike Owens, who will have to learn the playbook in a day or so if he is to play on Sunday, Rivas has been learning it since the spring, when he signed as an undrafted rookie out of Kansas.
Rivas’ journey back to the Giants is one of planes, trains and automobiles, a nearly 4,000-mile trek that brought him right back to where he started.
It began with a flight from Newark to Denver on Sunday after he was waived, only to have his connecting flight from Denver to his home in Wichita cancelled. He had to scramble to figure out a way to get from Colorado to Kansas and he wound up hitching a ride with the father of his girlfriend, who lives in eastern Colorado. The two of them embarked on a six-hour car ride through the night from Denver to Manhattan, Kansas, where Rivas had played in college and where his girlfriend was moving back for the start of her school year. He helped schlep some boxes and furniture around, aided in the unpacking process, then made his way to his home in Hutchinson, Kansas, about an hour away from Wichita.
Those are the planes and automobiles. The trains? They came into play when Rivas got the call to return to New York and was trying to get in touch with his father, who works for the railroad. They couldn’t reach him right away and had no idea where he was, but managed to see him before Rivas flew back to Newark; it was his father who drove Rivas back to Wichita for the flight to New Jersey.
He landed at nearly midnight on Thursday and was at the facility at 6 a.m. Friday.
Rivas got to spend time with his parents and grandparents and kept in shape riding a bicycle. He said he got his weightlifting in during the dorm move-in but didn’t miss much because of the short period he was absent from the Giants. It was basically like Tom Brady taking some time away from training camp to be with his family and then returning — but unlike the 45-year-old quarterback with a closet full of Super Bowl rings, Rivas had no idea he would be back, so he also spent some of that time grappling with the possibility his football career was over forever.
It makes this rare second chance not only strange logistically but significant for Rivas who knows he is at the bottom of the depth chart and how close he is to being without a job but on the roster nonetheless.
“I’ve been playing this game since I was in second grade and this is what I dreamed about,” he said. “[Getting cut] was hard for me. But I’m grateful to be back.”