NFL: Giants signs UNC’s Nicks
ALBANY, N.Y. ó The New York Giants will be reporting to training camp Sunday with all their draft picks, including the one they hope fills the void left by the release of troubled Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress.
First-round pick Hakeem Nicks became the last of the Giants’ nine picks to reach a deal when the North Carolina receiver signed a five-year contract on Saturday that will pay him a little less than $12.5 million.
“It was very important for Hakeem to be in training camp on time, so he can do his part to help the team win a championship,” Peter Schaffer, Nicks’ agent, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “He did not want to miss any practice time while his teammates were on the field and that was a strong impetus to get the deal done.”
Schaffer and Giants assistant general manager Kevin Abrams hammered out the agreement early Saturday morning, after working out the details over the past three days, Schaffer said. Nicks signed the contract after arriving at the University at Albany.
“Our objective every year is to have these rookies in camp on time,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “Training camp is the start of the long haul to get to where we want to be as a team. We all have a lot of hard work ahead of us, and this is the start. It’s important for the rookies to be in sync with the rest of the team from the start, because we expect them to contribute to our success. Every year.”
Defensive back Steve Cargile was waived to make room for Nicks on the roster.
Nicks was the 29th pick overall in the draft. He set 14 school receiving records in three seasons with the Tar Heels, leaving as their career leader in catches (181), yardage (2,840) and touchdown receptions (21).
Many Giants fans are hoping that Nicks can provide the deep threat that the Giants lost late last season when Burress shot himself in the thigh in a New York City nightclub. The team suspended him the final four games of the regular season and eventually released him in April.
“Everybody wants to make comparisons to Plax,” Schaffer said. “Hakeem is going to do what Hakeem can do to help the Giants win a championship. The differences in personality and character between the two is so different, and I’m not taking a shot at Plax, either. This kid is a solid person in everything: character, personality, everything.”
Nicks had 68 catches for 1,222 yards (an 18-yard average) and 12 touchdowns this past season as a junior.
He’ll have to compete with veterans Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham for playing time, but does offer the deep threat that they cannot provide on a consistent basis.
Coach Tom Coughlin said Nicks has outstanding hands, long arms and goes over the middle well. Coughlin was impressed with his performance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against West Virginia in his final collegiate game. He had eight catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
The Giants earlier this week signed linebacker Clint Sintim and offensive tackle William Beatty, their two second round draft picks.
However, the week leading up to training camp was dominated by the continuing Burress saga.
Burress, who caught the winning touchdown in the final minute of the 2008 Super Bowl, testified in Manhattan before a grand jury investigating a weapons charge against him.
Burress, who has not signed with another team, faces up to 3 1/2 years in prison and is free on $100,000 bail.
Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce also testified before the grand jury investigating the case. Pierce was with Burress at the nightclub last November when the receiver shot himself.
Authorities say Pierce drove Burress to the hospital and took the gun to Burress’ home in Totowa, N.J. Burress did not have a permit for the gun, and has pleaded not guilty to weapon possession. Pierce may also face charges.