Kenneth Durden was ready for training camp with the Giants.
“It was like a week before the camp, I’m getting ready, out in Arizona training, had the plane ticket, had the playbook, learning the plays, getting packed, and I get that phone call,” the cornerback told Newsday on Wednesday. “Dang.”
It was the call that told him there had been a change in plans. Durden was being waived. The Giants had selected Sam Beal in the third round of the supplemental draft over the summer and needed a roster spot for the rookie. That meant Durden had to go.
The move blindsided Durden, not just because of the suddenness of the roster decision – he’s been in the NFL since 2016, on the practice squads with the Raiders and Titans, and knows the ways of the business -- but because he, like many others, wasn’t expecting the Giants to make a pick in the supplemental draft.
“I totally forgot about it,” he said.
When the Giants parted ways with him, they told him to stay ready in case something happened. It did. Before the first team practice, Beal injured his shoulder and last week he was placed on injured reserve to undergo season-ending surgery. That opened the roster spot back up, and the Giants brought Durden back to fill it.
Now, his aim is to never again let go of it.
“It’s motivating to me,” he said of the experience. “It’s personal now. Now I have to go out there and I have something to prove. I have to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do, make the plays, be in the right place, whatever the coaches want me to do.”
In his two practices since returning, Durden has certainly flashed. His first workout back with the team was on Sunday and he broke up a pair of passes. “Straight off the plane, three hours of sleep,” he said. “I was just excited to be back.”
The following day he had a diving interception in one-on-one drills and broke up a few more passes in team reps.
“He has flashed,” Pat Shurmur said. “He’s gotten his hands on a couple of balls. He was out there competing. We like what we’ve seen so far.”
So why did they let him go in the first place?
“Unfortunately, sometimes when you are shaping up the roster a guy may be let go and it’s less about him and more about what you are trying to do,” Shurmur said. “We liked him all the way and now he’s back with us.”
The experience served as a bit of a wake-up for Durden as well. Players often go through training camp unsure where they stand in the eyes of the team and the coaches. Now Durden knows. He’s the last man on the roster when it comes to the cornerbacks. He’s the one closest to the edge. If somebody has to go, Durden knows who that will be.
“I feel like it’s all or nothing for me right now,” he said. “Coming back, my mentality is that I can’t get released this time. I have to do what I’m supposed to do. I gotta be here. I gotta go out there and make plays. I gotta make an impression the first day. Gotta do it. I gotta make the plays.”
Asked what he wants from this second lease on life as a Giant, Durden gave a simple answer.
“Everything,” he said. “I want to get everything. I want to make sure I prepare myself and just go out there and do great things and help this team.”