No one would blame New York Giants guard Will Hernandez if he'd just as soon bury and forget last season.
But to forget the trials and tribulations that included contracting COVID-19 and then losing his starting job would be to fail to learn from the experience and to take the opportunity to get better, and that's just not what Hernandez is about.
"Sometimes there are things that happen to you that you just can’t control and that was one of them for me," Hernandez said of the COVID-19 virus that was the first domino in a chain that saw him lose the starting left guard job to Shane Lemieux.
"I didn’t like it at all, but I had to deal with it and all that time that I missed because of it has just taught me how much more important the time that I have now is. So now I try not to waste any reps, waste any time. I try to do everything even better than I did before because I value that time a lot more because I had to sit out."
Hernandez, who is cross-training to play right guard, set out on an off-season mission to reinvent himself. He dropped about 20 pounds and is noticeably trimmer and leaner.
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He also connected with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather, who put him on a whole new training path designed to sharpen his skills, address his weaknesses, and make him an overall better player.
"Yeah, I think one of the best things about working out there is that you’re with a bunch of guys around the league. So, you can learn a lot, you can also compete a lot," Hernandez said of his work with Manyweather.
"You’ve got guys that are there with the same goals, with the same intentions, working hard. So, it kind of pushes you naturally instead of just working out by yourself which I did in my previous years. The best part about it is the comradery and the competition that it builds because all the guys are there doing the same thing."
So far, Hernandez says his transition to right guard, a position he said he played a bit in high school and somewhat in college, has been coming along.
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"I mean it’s basically just a flip flop thing. You do everything that you do on the left side, do it on the right," he said.
"Everything’s universal, it’s not as hard as people sometimes make it seem. Transition’s a transition, it’s different, but for me I feel it smoothly and I’m going to give it my all."
When asked about his bout with COVID, Hernandez wouldn't get into specifics, but he did hint that the virus hit him a little harder than what the team let on.
"At all times, I was ready to play. There’s just some things that you just can’t tell whether you’re good or bad until after the fact or until time passes," he said. "I couldn’t really give you an answer on that, but I was always ready to go in and play if I need to."
As to his decision to reshape his body, Hernandez said it was a combination of input he received from his coaches, players, and looking in the mirror that prompted him to go on a new path toward improvement.
"I did up my training, a lot more intensity, a lot more conditioning. Just did different things than I did in the past," he said.
"There was a famous saying from my strength coach that stuck with me all offseason, ‘You always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.’ So, I did a lot of things differently, ate different, I worked out different. At the end of the day, I still trained for football, still going out there and practicing the craft, just starting on the other side and that’s about it."
And while he was at it, he kept his eye on the prize rather than dwelling on the past.
"No, never that ‘why me’ mentality or that victim mentality," he said. "I wasn’t raised that way at all. You deal with what’s happening; you can’t control it. Did I like it? No. It was never ‘poor me.’ I always just said, ‘whenever my time comes, I’m going to make sure I take advantage of it,’ and that’s what I’m doing now.
"I always had confidence in myself and I know what I’ve always been able to do and what I can do. I have the same mentality now. Now I just get the chance to actually show it."