Ryan Connelly can see into the future.
No, he does not have a superpower responsible for his knack for reading and reacting to plays as a rookie inside linebacker for the Giants. But Connelly’s roadmap to recovery from a torn ACL in September is one he has seen play out before from people close to him, including his fiancée.
“I’ll be ready to go for training camp,” Connelly told The Post. “I think I would’ve been able to do some limited participation in OTAs. I was excited to do individual periods and get reps, but who knows if I will get that chance given the scheduling changes due to the coronavirus.”
Six weeks after Giants teammate Corey Coleman’s ACL surgery, Connelly injected life into a position weakened by years of neglect.
The fifth-round draft pick out of Wisconsin took over as a starter in Week 2 and totaled 20 tackles, two interceptions and a sack in four games before his season ended. Coleman’s recovery a few lockers away offered checkpoints for proper healing.
“There haven’t been any setbacks,” Connelly said. “I’m starting to do some cutting and explosive running. We understand that I’ve had a lot of time, so we haven’t been pushing it or trying to rush through things. Lower body, starting from ground zero getting my strength and flexibility back, and making sure [the knee] can flex and extend fully.”
The Giants offseason program was to begin April 6 but has been indefinitely postponed. It is unclear if new coach Joe Judge still will get to run the extra minicamp afforded to first-year head coaches or if OTAs will be held in May and June.
Connelly was training until recently at the now-closed Giants facility. He retreated to the weight room in his apartment complex and a nearby outdoor field, following instructions sent by trainer Steve Canelli.
“There are definitely bad days where my knee gets sore and doesn’t respond the way I want it to,” Connelly said. “But I’ve had shoulder surgeries in the past where you just sit there with no progress. With a knee injury, you are doing something new every week and consistently adding to your workload.”
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The Giants finally addressed linebacker this offseason and are not done reconfiguring: Kareem Martin and Alec Ogletree are gone, Markus Golden remains unsigned, and newcomers Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell played under new Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham with the Packers.
“It’s always nice when someone has familiarity on the defense,” Connelly said. “I experienced that last year with a couple guys. It’s one thing to know the plays, but it’s a whole different element to understand how the defense fits against certain offensive schemes.”
Connelly is familiar with a popular mock draft second-round choice for the Giants: Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun.
“It’d be exciting to play with him,” Connelly said, “and I know wherever he goes he’ll be successful. There’s a difference between being a linebacker and a football player, and he’s definitely a football player.”
Even with all the changes, Connelly will have an edge competing to regain his starting job. He can drop in pass coverage, an area where the Giants routinely struggle.
“It’s all about experience and understanding the offensive formation while knowing what routes the tight ends and running backs have on their tree,” Connelly said. “Understanding what help you have in coverage eliminates the difficulty of covering man-to-man when you know your defense, which is something I plan on focusing on in this new scheme.”
Reproving himself to new coaches and reestablishing the same first-step quickness after surgery are not discouraging setbacks. The former high school quarterback began his career as a walk-on and became a scholarship captain and starter.
“I pride myself on being quick to recognize the play and pull the trigger,” Connelly said. “Eliminating hesitation leads to success as a linebacker because it allows you to get to the ball carrier quick and make the play.”
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