EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — During the past four years, New York Giants running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have been somewhat inseparable.
Best of friends, lunch buddies at Popeyes, they pull for each other on and off the field.
When Jacobs lost the No. 1 running back spot to Bradshaw last season, their friendship never wavered.
So it’s not surprising when Bradshaw became a free agent and went to the cash-strapped Giants for a new contract, Jacobs was the one who offered to restructure his deal.
“He loves me and I respect him more than anything for doing that,” Bradshaw said Thursday in his first news conference since signing a four-year, $18 million contract on Tuesday. “He called me when he did it and he’s like, ‘I want you here.’ Like I said, this is where I wanted to be.”
While the new contract has $9 million in guaranteed money, it’s not close to what Bradshaw expected coming into free agency after rushing for a career-best 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
The money wasn’t close to what the Carolina Panthers gave running back DeAngelo Williams, who received $43 million over five seasons.
Williams got the money despite missing the final nine games last season with a sprained foot. He rushed for 1,117 in 2009.
“We didn’t get what we expected to get, but I’m happy with what I got,” Bradshaw said. “I love the Giants and I wanted to be here and that’s what I wanted.”
Bradshaw has serious talks with the Dolphins early in free agency and discussions with Cincinnati and Washington before agreeing to the deal with the Giants. The deal came after New York brought in Jason Snelling for a look-see.
“We have two different talents,” Bradshaw said of Snelling. “He’s a big back, just like Brandon, I guess. It was no threat to me. Like I said, I just do my part. All I can hope is that the Giants (like) what they saw in me and gave me a contract.”
Bradshaw is returning this season in good health. He had his left ankle surgically cleaned out in February and a slightly fractured wrist that contributed to some fumbling problems has healed.
Bradshaw also has spent the offseason working on protecting the ball. He lost six of seven fumbles last season, many times because he tried too hard for an extra yards instead of going down.
“I’ve worked on just the strength of holding the ball in my hands, everything. Wrist protection, everything,” Bradshaw said.
This year should be interesting for Bradshaw and Jacobs.
The offensive line is in flux with the release of center Shaun O’Hara and guard Rich Seubert. David Diehl has moved from left tackle to guard to replace Seubert. Will Beatty is being handed the job at left tackle and center David Baas was signed as a free agent to replace O’Hara.
Coach Tom Coughlin also wants Jacobs (147) to get more carries this season, which means less for Bradshaw, who had 276 last year.
“That’s fine,” Bradshaw said. “Like I say, he’s a big brother to me. I’ll share whatever I have with him. Like I said, keeps us healthy and makes the team better.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for Bradshaw is his attitude. Being a seventh-round draft pick, he came into the league with a chip on his shoulder. It’s still there after the stress and disappointment of free agency.
“I love this game and regardless of how much money I have, I’m always going to give my all,” Bradshaw said.