Nat Berhe made the list.
When the Giants’ voluntary minicamp opened on Tuesday, the third-year safety looked for his name and eventually found it. That’s when he found out that he would be a full participant in the workouts.
“I was like, ‘Man, that is exciting for me because it has been so long,’” Berhe said on Wednesday after completing his second day of work. “I’ve had a year off and it was probably one of the longest years of my life.”
His was the second-most confounding calf injury of the 2015 season for the Giants. While Victor Cruz’s struggles with his lower leg injury kept him sidelined throughout the entire schedule and kept him in the headlines, Berhe was dealing with his own issues. A blood clot was found in his calf in the preseason and he was placed on season-ending injured reserve before the season even began. Thus ended what was expected to be a big year for Berhe.
The Giants were hoping Berhe would step up and become a starter for them. They did not re-sign Antrel Rolle, they just drafted Landon Collins in the second round, and they needed someone else to fill the gap in the secondary. Berhe, a strong, aggressive player who was once dubbed “the missile” by his position coach as a rookie, seemed to be the perfect fit.
He even sounded the part, talking during last offseason about being a leader, a voice in the backfield, and a key contributor for the defense. Like Napoleon crowning himself emperor, he essentially named himself the starter.
Then the calf sidelined him through the spring. And into the summer. Pretty soon, 2015 was a washout.
“I’m a competitor, man,” he said. “I have been a competitor since I’ve started organized sports and to not play really does test you as a human being.”
That test now seems to be over, and Berhe is ready to move onto the next one: Finding a substantial role in the defense. The Giants are still without a clear wingman for Collins and Berhe should once again be in the running for that job. So will Mykkele Thompson, a rookie drafted last year whose season ended with a torn Achilles. And possibly even Bennett Jackson, another would-be safety from a year ago whose season ended with an early surgery, his on his knee.
Berhe was a little less bold in his words than he was a year ago, perhaps humbled by the long absence. But he made it clear his goals are still the same as they were.
“I don’t put any limitations on myself, never have, never will,” Berhe said. “I am who I am. I am a football player and I play the game like it is everything to me and I play to win.”