EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If the New York Giants had wanted a little reassurance before signing David Baas to take over at center, all they had to do was talk to linebackers coach Jim Herrmann.
Herrmann spent 20 years coaching at Michigan before coming to the NFL in 2006, and he remembers Baas at practice going against his defense when he was the Wolverines’ coordinator.
“He’s road grader,” Herrmann said of Baas (pronounced BOSS) on Monday. “He is a tough human being. I hated going against him. I love that about him. He is a tough guy. Whatever they ask him to do, he’ll do at 100 percent.”
Baas is coming to the Giants in what might be conceived as an uncomfortable situation. He was signed as a free agent last month to fill an opening at center on a veteran offensive line.
The only problem is the Giants cut well-liked veterans Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert to create the opening.
Baas admits he felt a little awkward about the situation, but no one has held it against him.
“That speaks of the character of the guys in the room, and what good guys they are,” said Bass, who played his first six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. “They had great guys there for a long time and I know it’s a (lousy) part of the business, but they have done a really good job of accepting me and bringing me along and giving me everything to help the offensive line succeed and to help this team succeed.”
Baas, who signed with the Giants the day after O’Hara and Seubert were released, said backup lineman Kevin Boothe spent a lot of time with him going over plays when he had to watch the early practices because the new CBA was not ratified.
Having Chris Snee and David Diehl at the guards also has helped getting the system down, but in the end Baas will have to make the line call for the unit.
Baas is used to learning new systems. He had six different offensive coordinators in six seasons with the 49ers so devouring a new playbook has become an annual rite of training camp.
Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty has been impressed.
“From what I can tell right now from being around David Baas, he’s an intelligent guy and an extremely hard worker,” Flaherty said. “He’s a veteran and takes things home with him and he does study. I’m excited and looking forward to him.”
After a couple of problems with the snap exchanges once he got on the field, Baas seemingly has smoothed things out. His biggest adjustment is getting used to Eli Manning’s cadence calling the signals, but even that is coming along faster than anticipated.
The Giants’ offensive line was not used to much change until last year. With O’Hara at center, Seubert and Snee at the guards and Diehl and Kareem McKenzie at the tackles, the unit was one of the constants in the lineup for years.
Injuries took away some of that continuity last season as O’Hara was limited to six games because of an ankle and foot injuries. Diehl missed four games with hip and hamstring problems, while Seubert suffered a major knee injury in the final game of the season.
With O’Hara and Seubert waived, Diehl has moved to guard and Will Beatty has taken over at left tackle. The only holdovers at their positions are Snee at right guard and McKenzie at right tackle.
With the preseason opener against Carolina on Saturday, coach Tom Coughlin didn’t seem worried about his new line coming together.
“The right side is the right side. Snee and McKenzie worked together for quite some time. We’ve got to get David Baas involved in probably being a little bit more vocal and he’s trying to get comfortable and each day he practices more and more and I can see it coming. It’ll be there. It’ll develop.”
Flaherty says most of his meeting time with the line is installing the offense and getting them on the same page so they can carry what they learn to the field.
“You have to be able to communicate,” Flaherty said. “It does take some chemistry sometimes. For example, when you have played against an adjacent lineman over the years, it’s a physical communication; you don’t even have to talk. That is something we’ll have to develop.”
The Giants have depth on the line with Boothe, Adam Koets (currently on PUP), veteran Stacy Andrews, second-year pro Mitch Petrus and rookie James Brewer, a fourth-round draft pick.