When Curtis Painter re-signed with the New York Giants this offseason, he knew the situation and scenario right in front of him.
Painter, 29, was a journeyman in the NFL who’d only seen action in three of his five NFL seasons. One year earlier, the Giants had trade up in the fourth round to select Ryan Nassib, costing the Giants their own fourth- and sixth-round picks.
New York had been forced to keep three quarterbacks on the team’s roster in 2013. They didn’t want to do it again. There was one open spot behind Eli Manning.
Was it going to be Painter, or the player New York had traded up to select in the 2012 NFL Draft?
Painter knew the odds. Painter didn’t care if they were stacked against him.
“I can’t control anything like that,” Painter said. “That comes from the upper management and coaches. All I can really do is do my best on the field and try to help the team get better.”
The apparent long shot to make the Giants’ final roster has seen his odds significantly increase this week in training camp. After receiving the NFL equivalent of ‘scraps’ for reps in the first three weeks of camp, Painter has worked entirely with the second team in each of the last two practices.
Painter downplayed any such ‘promotion’ on the depth chart, but the increase in snaps has been noticeable. Throughout the early portions of training camp, Manning and Nassib would split 80-to-90 percent of the team’s reps in each drill before Painter would see the field.
When the offense and defense would work one-on-ones, it was Manning and Nassib throwing passes while Painter handed off to running backs in the distance. While his time on the field was far from glorious, Painter made the most of it. Slowly, but surely, his reps began to increase.
Early in camp, interceptions, poor decisions and forced passes began to mount for Nassib. While Nassib has improved both in practice and the preseason, Painter just kept on making the most of what he was getting. Then, Painter made his ultimate case for a promotion when the Giants took the field for Saturday’s preseason home opener versus the Steelers,
After a Nassib’s incomplete swing pass – which was ruled a fumbled lateral and returned for a touchdown — put New York behind late in the fourth quarter, Painter entered the contest and promptly marched the team down the field on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a three-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Corey Washington.
Painter finished seven-of-seven for 68 yards and one touchdown.
“When you can put together a drive like that, whether it be in the first quarter or fourth, you’re going to be pleased,” Painter said. “We did some things well.”
Painter has seen every second-team rep since.
“I don’t think much about it,” Painter said. “At the end of the day, you’re running the same plays. It’s just a matter of going out there and executing and knowing your responsibilities. “