For Darius Reynaud, everything is different except his job: point his nose up the field and go.
The Giants’ new kick returner will most likely be back there on punts, and perhaps even kickoffs, come Sunday’s opener against the Panthers, having spent the majority of the week acclimating himself to entirely new blocking patterns.
“Right away,” the 5-foot-9, 201-pound Reynaud said when asked how long it took him to get to work after getting traded Friday night from the Vikings in the Sage Rosenfels deal. “It’s totally different from what we are doing in Minnesota. The schemes are totally different. As soon as I got here, they gave me this book, and I’ve been right at it ever since.”
The Giants needed him badly. They originally had Aaron Ross as the camp competition leader for the punt return job. But Ross’ plantar fasciitis being what it is, he’s missed the last two preseason games and may not even make it Sunday. At any rate, it’s hard to return punts or play cornerback with such a painful foot condition, regardless of the type of orthotics the medical team puts in his shoe.
The late-camp possibility was Mario Manningham, but he hasn’t done much of that. So it’s more than probable that Reynaud, the NFC’s fourth-leading punt returner with 308 yards on 30 returns (10.3-yard average), will be the one trying to win the field position battles.
He might even see action on kickoff returns, but punt returning is his forte. The Giants have also designated him as a wide receiver, though the Vikings did use him as a running back.
“I can do kick returns, but if you miss the first guy in punt returns then it’s off to the races,” Reynaud said. “I’m more comfortable doing that than kick returns.”
Much like the quarterback who journeyed East with him, the Giants represent a more secure situation for him. If he’s not the starting punt returner this week, he will be in the very near future. With the Vikings, he was at the mercy of Percy Harvin’s health. While Reynaud handled all the punt returns last year while Harvin did the kickoffs, Harvin is now destined for a bigger role. And that means slot receiving duties, too.
“If anything ever happened to Percy, I was his backup,” Reynaud said. “I did punt returns, kick returns, anything they needed me to do.”
Ever since Domenik Hixon went down in minicamp, the Giants have been searching in the return game. They may have found the right guy in Reynaud, who teammates call D-Ray.
Then again, he knew that even before the trade.
“I kid you not, me and my wife were talking after the Denver game on Thursday,” Reynaud said. “I said I had a good feeling that I’d be going to New York. I didn’t know which team, but just New York. On Friday, they called me and told me I was traded to the Giants. I was kind of surprised, but I had a good feeling. I have no clue. My wife says to this day, ‘I don’t know why you were thinking about that and how this came about.’ I had a good feeling.”