Kevin Boothe usually shows up at training camp with the Giants wondering where to go. For the last few years he’s been their replacement part, the guy who sits on the shelf and waits to see which breakdown he can help plug up. If a guard or a tackle gets hurt, the Giants take Boothe down and slide him in.
That’s not to say he wasn’t valuable. Last offseason Jerry Reese pointed to him as an offseason priority and the Giants signed him to a two-year, $2.5 million contract before he hit free agency.
This year, though, Boothe is at camp with an unusual title. Starter. He’s been working as the starting left guard on almost every snap so far. He slid into that position for the second half of the 2011 season, taking over for David Diehl when Diehl had to move back to left tackle and Will Beatty was on IR.
Still, one of the hardest parts of his new job title has been shaking the mentality of the old one.
“I think everybody considers themselves a starter or wants to be a starter, but I’m also prepared to do whatever the team needs me to do,” Boothe said. “If that means moving to another position or being able to fill in at other spots, that’s fine too. That’s a good thing. I’m out there with the ones and working hard to improve every day.”
About the only difference Boothe said he notices in this camp compared to his previous five with the Giants is that he is, in fact, lined up with the first group in team periods.
“It is different, but a lot of things are the same,” Boothe said. “I’m still working multiple positions, just getting more reps at the guard spot. Just have to prepare to the best of my capabilities and see what happens.”
Last year, even though he started throughout the second half of the season and through the playoffs, there was a perception that Boothe was still a replacement part. An outside perception at least.
“When he got the opportunity to go in we were all excited for him because we knew he could play at a high level and he proved that,” Chris Snee, the right guard, said. “I’m happy that he was rewarded with this chance and he’ll continue to play well like he did last year.”
With his status comes some other responsibilities, like being a mentor to the younger players. Boothe, however, sees himself in the middle of the link between the veterans and the newcomers.
“It’s crazy how quickly things can change over the course of a couple of years,” Boothe said. “I’m one of the older guys now. But I still have a lot to learn and I try to help those younger guys as much as I can. I still look to Snee, Diehl, even Sean Locklear and Dave Baas for information because those guys have played a lot more games, started a lot more games than I have. It’s still a learning process for me. I by no means know it all. I’m here to do whatever I can.”
He always has been.
“There is a sense of comfort in terms of playing one position rather than bouncing around like in years past,” Boothe said of this camp. “But in terms of camp you can’t think that way. I’m not near that level to be comfortable during camp. I don’t think anybody is.
“I still feel like that is important for me,” Boothe said of his versatility. “That’s a role that I still fill.”