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Monday, July 2, 2012
Of the Giants, Will Hill and fresh starts

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Mike Garafolo has a good story on Will Hill, the former University of Florida star who went undrafted after a series of off-field problems but is getting a shot to make the New York Giants' roster as a backup safety:
Hill's 2010 suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules, a run of posts on his Twitter account in reference to marijuana use and sex with prostitutes, the company he was keeping at the time, the negative impression he gave teams during interviews and a few other concerns all proved to be too many red flags.

Hill went undrafted. And unsigned. All season long.

None of the 32 NFL teams was willing to give Hill a shot at any of their 1,700-plus available spots on their rosters or practice squads, even with a deal that didn’t include any guaranteed money.

Now, the 2007 Star-Ledger Offensive Player of the Year is hoping for some measure of redemption with the Giants, who signed him to a minimum contract with no guaranteed money after he attended rookie minicamp in May on a tryout basis.

It's an interesting piece in which Giants GM Jerry Reese talks about the team's view on players with "checkered pasts." He says he makes it clear to guys like Hill, Jayron Hosley and Janzen Jackson that they're one slip-up away from getting cut, but that it's worth the risk when the player is as talented as Hill is.

The Giants always seem to be salary cap-strapped these days, and taking chances on troubled-but-talented guys is a way to combat that by seeking good values. But there's more to it than that. For Reese's philosophy to work, he has to feel good about the ability of his coaches to get the most out of the players in question, about the ability of the veterans in the locker room to help do the same and about the strength of the fabric of his team. Some organizations -- those whose locker rooms are not so liberally populated with confident, team-first two-time Super Bowl champions -- prefer to stay away from potential problem cases. The Dallas Cowboys, for example, have made it a point to steer clear of such players since Jason Garrett became their coach and prioritized the atmosphere around the team and the attitude in the locker room. But the Giants are strong enough and self-assured enough that the distractions such players might typically bring don't worry them.

So if Hill has what it takes to succeed in the NFL, I imagine the Giants will help bring that out of him. And if he doesn't, they're not at any real risk in the meantime.