Ed Thompson: So what’s it like digging into a new playbook in a new city? Does it remind you in some ways of your rookie year back in 2005?
Chris Canty: It does, but more so my freshman year in college when I was coming into new surroundings and trying to learn a new playbook and defense. When I was drafted by Dallas, I already knew the playbook because it was the same we'd done in college .So it kind of takes me back a few more years than that.
Thompson: You didn’t play football until your junior year in high school. Why did you wait that long? And what finally made you decide to try it out?
Canty: Well, growing up I pretty much stuck to basketball and baseball. But honestly, my mother is the reason why I got involved with football. She got tired of me coming home after school and doing nothing in the fall. So she wanted me to get a job or play a sport. She said I wasn't going to be coming straight home after school anymore. So I said, a job sounds like work, so let me try playing football (laughs). And the rest is pretty much history.
Thompson: What a great story. And, obviously, look how well it’s worked out for you.
Canty: Yeah, it really has. I never imagined that I would have this opportunity to play at this level. I was more concerned, coming out of high school, with getting a solid education and preparing myself for the future. I just didn't think football would be a viable option. But you know, here I am.
Thompson: During your senior year at Virginia in 2004 you tore up your knee badly. Was that rehab one of the toughest life challenges you’ve faced?
Chris Canty tackles a Pittsburgh Panther during the Continental Tire Bowl in December. 2003 while playing for the Virginia Cavaliers.
Craig Jones/Getty Images
Canty: Oh yeah, I don't wish that rehab on my worst enemy. It’s one of those things that’s really rough -- particularly in the first couple of months because that’s when you’ve really got to work hard. It’s painful, it’s tough. But my doctor and my rehab specialist did a great job. They got me rolling pretty quickly from a devastating knee injury.
Thompson: You made 43 tackles during your rookie year to lead all Dallas linemen. That was a pretty good way to make people in this league notice that you had arrived and that you were fully recovered from the knee injury. Why do you think you were able to get into the flow so quickly? Was it the playbook advantage that you talked about?
Canty: I was familiar with the Dallas playbook because Bill Parcells had coached with Al Groh at the New York Giants back in the 80s. Al implemented the same 3-4 system at the University of Virginia, so I had been running that system for four years. And then when I got to Dallas, that was the first year they implemented the 3-4. So I had an advantage on a lot of the veteran players who had never played it before. From that perspective, I pretty much knew what was going on and understood what Bill was going to be expecting from me.
Thompson: During the offseason, you got a huge contract offer from the Giants as an unrestricted free agent. How did that hit you, knowing that you’d be lining up with guys you had previously known as major rivals -- not to mention the fact that it meant you’d be battling your old teammates twice a year?
Canty: The guys up here have a lot of respect for me as a football player. The Giants, as an organization, they respect me as a football player. And you know, that’s all you can ask. Quite frankly, I didn't think this option would be here because this team is so talented, particularly on the defensive front. I didn't anticipate them coming after me as aggressively as they did, but I'm definitely excited about the opportunity to come here and play for the Giants. And I'm excited about the opportunity to play against my former teammates twice a year (laughs).
Thompson: So your agent calls you up to let you know that the Giants are willing to offer you a six-year, $42 million deal. What did you say when he told you that? I don’t know how you wrap your head around that kind of a deal after making roughly $2 million the previous year.
Canty: I have to admit, I was a little surprised. New York wanted me to come up and visit, and I was a little surprised that they would be a viable option, but they really did step up to the plate. As for the financial piece of it, while there were other teams willing to offer more money, it was getting the opportunity to play on a championship-caliber football team, a team that’s very, very young and has a lot of talent – that’s going to be right there for a long time to come. So I’m excited about it.
Thompson: Who are some of the Giants players that you’ve struck up fast friendships with already?
Chris Canty reacts after sacking Giants QB Eli Manning in December, 2008.
Canty: Well, it’s got to be the defensive line. Defensive linemen, you know, they’re the guys that keep the locker room going and they’re always playing jokes on each other. We're a tight-knit group, and I’m excited to be a part of a group like that. We work very hard. I see why this group is skilled and has had so much success in the past. I'm just looking forward to being able to contribute to that success in the future.
Thompson: So you're one of those guys who’s got to be watched from time to time in terms of playing practical jokes?
Canty: Yeah, you’ve really got to watch me (laughs). I'm always that guy who’s going to take it to the next level. So be careful. If you’re going to play a joke on me, I’ll definitely step it up and play one on you. They already know that though (laughs).
Thompson: Okay, so what’s one of your most memorable practical jokes you’ve played on someone?
Canty: One of my teammates in Dallas, Stephen Bowen, was messing with me, so I retaliated. I took his keys right after practice and I parked his car in the middle of the practice field. I thought that was pretty funny.
Thompson: As someone coming in and looking at the Giants up close with a new set of eyes, what jumps out at you about this team?
Canty: Well, one thing that definitely stands out is this team's workman-like attitude. Even though they're a year removed from a championship season, they never talk about winning a championship -- they talk about improving every day, sharpening their skills, getting better as a football team, as individuals. I believe that translates more into success than just constantly talking about winning championships and not working, not doing anything towards that.
Thompson: From what I understand, you’ll be a defensive tackle in the Giants’ 4-3 rather than a defensive end like you were in the 3-4, but you’ll also be rotating to defensive end in certain situations. Is that right?
Canty: Well, that’s what I've been told and that’s what I've been preparing myself for. Right now, Coach Waufle is giving me an opportunity to learn the defensive tackle position, getting a lot of repetitions there. But he's also let me know that I'm going to be moving around the defensive front a little bit and to prepare myself for that. But right now, he just wants me to concentrate and learn that one position for right now.
Thompson: Talk about the adjustments you’ll need to make to be successful working at the defensive tackle spot.
Canty: One thing that Coach Waufle was clear about when I came to visit as a free agent -- and he constantly reminds me about it -- is to turn up the volume. Basically, he felt that I was a physically-gifted player, but there would be times where I wouldn't play hard by his standards and I wasn't aggressive enough. So he emphasized to me to be very aggressive -- not over-aggressive -- but be very aggressive and just turn up the volume. So I'm making a concentrated effort at doing that with my effort on the field, what I do in the weight room, and what I do in the film-sessions.
Thompson: Tell the Giants fans how Chris Canty is going to help make the defense even better this year.
Canty: I think there's definitely opportunity for me to provide some interior pressure that will compliment the things that the linebackers can do and that’ll also help out those edge-rusher guys that'll give them the opportunity to get more one-on-ones out on the edge. And hopefully that translates into a dominating defensive front.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.