Tom Coughlin hit the bull's eye by telling his team to shut up and play. The Giants have a long…
"I work hard, try to take care of myself and take care of my body, because the offense depends on me,'' Diehl explained.
The offense depends on me. It's a sentence that Tiki Barber or Eli Manning could complete and no one would think twice. Of course the offense depends on the best running back in franchise history or the young quarterback of the present and future. But Diehl? He plays guard, the most innocuous position on the field. Can't some other large body be rotated in if Diehl cannot make it one afternoon?
Not in the world according to David Diehl, a world that revolves around dependability and the old-fashioned notion that you put in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Diehl shows up, he plays. He shows up, he practices. Every down. Every day. In such a brutal sport, there's luck involved with such durability, but it is more than good fortune that keeps Diehl on the field, in the huddle and on the line where the Giants need him most.
"As a football player you want to be a dependable guy, you want to be a guy who's consistent and always there to play,'' Diehl said. "I pride myself on that.''
There is no more accurate description of Diehl, who turned 26 on Sept. 15, than dependable. Who would have thought that a fifth-round draft pick out of Illinois, the 160th player selected in the 2003 NFL Draft, would surge into the starting lineup as a rookie and never, ever leave? When he took his customary place at left guard in the season-opening loss to the Colts, the Manning Bowl hype was front and center but off to the far back, tucked away, was the fact that it was Diehl's 50th consecutive start. In the past three seasons, he's started every game the Giants have played, at various positions along the offensive line.
This is quite an achievement, but there's so much more. Playing the games on Sunday is the reward for the rigors of a long week of practice. Diehl doesn't take days off there, either. Nearly everyone begs off sometime during training camp. It is a time when every ache and pain is documented, when players take a day off with this strain and miss a portion of a workout with that muscle pull, but Diehl's name never appeared on the wounded list. He was one of six starters who did not miss a single practice during training camp, joining Barber, Jim Finn, Manning, Corey Webster and Fred Robbins.
Diehl has never missed a practice session in his time with the Giants. In fact, he hasn't missed a practice since his sophomore year in college.
"One of my goals, I want to be a guy who's always out there, who has accountability, the rest of the guys can know you're going to be there when the times are tough, when things are on the line, you're still going to be there fighting,'' Diehl said. "That's just the blue-collar work ethic I've always had my entire life. My dad always said if you do something, do it to the best of your ability, don't half-ass anything.''
The ability to endure is one of the qualities Tom Coughlin admires most of all. Don't think that was not a factor in the Giants last October extending Diehl's contract with a five-year, $14 million package. At 6-5, 318 pounds, he looks as sturdy as a mountain and he's proven to be just as immovable.
He's not invulnerable. During a brutal three-day stretch of heat this past summer Diehl lost a total of 26 pounds and needed IV injections to replenish his fluids. He struggled through a dead-leg period and sat in cold tubs to hasten the rejuvenation process. But he played on.
Coughlin, like most coaches, obsesses over practice and has difficulty dealing with players unable to take the field. Surely he's noticed the way Diehl punches the clock but it's an unspoken appreciation.
"I don't need a pat on the back, that's not how I am,'' Diehl said. "I don't think any offensive lineman needs that. You have to have it in yourself, that determination to be that guy.''
For the first time in his entire football career, Diehl this season returns to the same position he played the previous year. Starting with his sophomore season at Illinois, he moved from right guard to left tackle to left guard. With the Giants, Diehl was at first a right guard and then a right tackle and last year moved to left guard. That's where he's stayed.
"That right there is a huge relief for me,'' he said. "It's hard to get settled in at one position when you're moving every year. That's something that adds value to you.''
A rock-solid pass protector who has the bulk to power forward in run blocking, Diehl always thinks team first but he does have individual goals. "This is my fourth year, I know how everything goes, I've been in the system, I know the guys I play with, I feel good, I feel comfortable,'' he said. "Yeah, it's one of my goals to be a Pro Bowler. Who doesn't want to try to become the best at your position?''
Until he does, Diehl will no doubt keep showing up, which is part of the secret of his success. Just ask Woody.
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