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Unemployed Preston Parker now has a big job for Giants

Preston Parker of the Giants catches a pass

Preston Parker of the Giants catches a pass during training camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on July 22, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Mike Stobe

Where was Preston Parker a year ago at this time?

"Begging for money," he said. "Trying to find a job."

Where he wasn't was in the NFL. Cut by the Saints at the end of 2013 training camp, the wide receiver had no suitors in the football business.

It wasn't until the season was over in January that Parker was signed by the Giants as a free agent. Now, on Sunday, he could wind up being a pretty important cog in the team's attempt to find success on the field.

Parker will step in for Jerrel Jernigan as the third wide receiver, playing on the outside opposite Rueben Randle with Victor Cruz in the slot when the team goes to multiple-receiver looks. With Jernigan on injured reserve and first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. still sidelined with a hamstring injury, Parker is the most experienced option the Giants have. Rookie Corey Washington and Julian Talley, just called up from the practice squad, are the others.

"He's been in the league," Tom Coughlin said of Parker, who played for the Bucs from 2010-12. "He's very quick, you saw him the other day . . . He's played before, he's got a good attitude about it, he is a tough guy and hopefully he'll make a strong contribution."

Parker will be one of two offensive players who were not in the league last year. Tight end Daniel Fells, who caught a touchdown pass last week against the Cardinals, also was out of a job. He was starting to explore opportunities in business before the Giants signed him in the offseason.

"It was very tough," Fells said of his involuntary year away from the game. "Whenever you're not doing something you love, it's not an easy pill to swallow."

The Giants have a history of taking players off their couch and thrusting them into prominent roles. They did it with Chase Blackburn, who was unsigned for most of the 2011 season but came back to the team in November in time to be the starting middle linebacker for the Super Bowl run. Trumaine McBride became a starting cornerback last year despite not having a team the previous season. Now Parker and Fells.

"The research never stops with finding players that can contribute, and when you do find guys that have been out for a year . . . they come back in and they're hungry," Coughlin said. "Let's face it, they have a serious mind-set. That's very, very noticeable. They're very serious about their business. They've been out, they know what it's like not to be on a team. So I think they capture a little bit of that motivation to a stronger, more personal intent."

Fells and Parker said the most important aspect of an exile from the NFL is keeping a positive attitude about the future in the face of an unringing phone.

"I kept hoping and working towards it," Fells said. "I always felt I should have been playing. Just like this year, I felt I could play the game. I felt I proved that, and that's why I'm still here."

Parker said he never allowed himself to consider that his playing days were behind him.

"Don't stop until it's over, until you really know you can't get on a team or you feel like you're too old," he said. "Whatever it is, when you feel like it's time to stop, stop. But if there's a slight chance, a 1 percent chance, keep trying, keep pushing, because somebody can call you."

Until the Giants did, Parker was home in Florida building Tiki huts. His father's girlfriend got him the job. He said it took about a week to build each one, bolting the beams together and assembling the buildings.

"It was hard," he said.

He's not doing that this year.

"I have an opportunity," he said. "I just have to attack it."

With Barbara Barker

New York Sports