How Logan Ryan made the New York Giants believe

It's been a wild five months for the veteran DB, from creating his own training camp to death threats to nearly losing his wife. Now? He has the first-place Giants dreaming big.

He could say he compartmentalized. He could tell the world that duty called so, dammit, he locked in and played a football game.

But he would be lying.

Logan Ryan could not just shove all this trauma into the desolate corners of his mind when his New York Giants played Washington on Nov. 8. His family had just gone through hell. Six days prior, his wife Ashley could have died. Ashley had stomach pains, went to the emergency room, realized she was pregnant, then realized this was an ectopic pregnancy — the baby was growing in a fallopian tube — and emergency surgery was needed.

She survived. The baby did not.

So as the game neared, the stress was unbearable. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. He lost seven pounds and, simply, could not shake all the What Ifs running through his head.

What if Giants trainer Justin Maher didn’t answer his phone? Ryan called him because his wife — more than 1,000 miles away in Florida — was having stomach pains. It was 1 a.m.

What if Maher didn’t insist Logan tell Ashley to get to an emergency room ASAP? Neither were seriously considering going. It was the middle of the night.

What if Ashley doesn’t have her sister with her in Florida? She only flew south with her, on a whim, because Ashley wanted a companion on the flight.

What if the Ryan kids, Avery (5) and Otto (2), weren’t staying with Ryan’s parents? Or if Ryan was on the road and Ashley had no choice but to stay at home that specific night? That tube could’ve burst. She could’ve died right then. It’s all chilling to even consider but Logan and Ashley talked about this all and Logan knows, for a fact, there is no way he could’ve kept playing football. He would’ve quit right then if he lost his wife.

Gameday closed in and his wife, still recovering physically and emotionally, told him to play.

His coach, Joe Judge, told him not to play. His coach wanted him to be “a Dad first” and “a husband first” and insisted Ryan take as much time away from the game as he’d ever need. Ryan missed some practices, some meetings but the fact that Judge said that? He felt indebted. He played. Ashley told her husband to get two interceptions — one for her, one for the baby they lost — and, sure enough, Ryan forced a fumble on his first play of the game. With 1:15 left, his last play, he won the game with an interception.

All game, he thought about his wife, the baby, all those what-ifs.

Everything bled together.

“That’s when I like, man, if I really put my mind to stuff,” Ryan says, “it’s crazy what you can accomplish in life.”

And yet again, Logan Ryan got these Giants to believe. This performance under those circumstances transcended X’s and O’s.

It may seem like this team emerged out of nowhere. The Giants’ 17-12 haymaker of a win in Seattle put the entire league on notice. But, honestly, that win was no shock to Ryan and no shock to anybody on this roster because something special’s been brewing in New Jersey for a while. A team that started 0-5, then 1-7, is now in first place of the NFC East at 5-7 and truly believes it can beat anybody right now. The No. 1 reason for that belief? The source of hope the final month of the season? Logan Ryan. A player without a team the entire month of August.  

What he’s experienced these last five months have changed his life and the fortunes of one of the NFL’s flagship franchises.

From Ryan creating his own boot camp of a training camp in Tampa, Fla., when no team would sign him. To receiving a flood of death threats after injuring Dak Prescott. To being precisely the veteran Judge needs to instill his principles. To speaking up. To making play… after play…after play… at so many critical moments, the vivacious 5-foot-11, 195-pound corner-turned-safety is now turning this conference completely on its head. We all thought the division was a joke. We all thought these were the same old Giants spiraling down the toilet.

We were wrong. This team is peaking at the perfect time.

Now, nobody wants to play New York and a win Sunday against the flailing Arizona Cardinals will skyrocket all of this belief to a new level.  

Ryan chatted with Go Long for an hour and a half recently to explain how this happened.

The mindset back in that Washington game was simple: If Ryan was going to be away from his wife — if he wasn’t going to be that shoulder to cry on — he needed to make that valuable time away worth it. If he was going to “commit,” as he says, he was going to truly commit. He knew Ashley would be watching back at their N.J. home so, he told himself, I better bring a damn ball home. And he did. He wrote her name on his cleats. He unleashed all of their “pain,” their suffering. He played every snap that game, 57 in all, and every snap just felt different.

Says Ryan: “I just played out of body. Inspired.”

After Snap No. 57, after that pick, Ryan immediately raced to the cameras, rocked the football like it was a baby, stared into the lens and told his wife, “That was for you baby.”

This resurgence in New York is no accident.

Hungry

The months on the calendar flipped and flipped, all the way to August, and he couldn’t stop one toxic thought from creeping in.

Here Logan Ryan was, a proven playmaker who had reached five AFC Championship Games, won two Super Bowls and was fresh off a dynamite season in Tennessee. What was the issue? Only his wife truly understood the emotions he was going through, the feeling of knowing “your worth, your stock, what you think your value is,” Ryan says, and everybody else apparently disagreeing. Nobody viewed Logan Ryan the same way he did. When he talked to teams, those teams essentially told him, “You’re good but you’re not that good.”

And Ryan couldn’t help it. He started to wonder if his own interpretation of his own talents was dead wrong.

Says Ryan: “There’s some self-doubt, like ‘Maybe I’m wrong.’”

There were other factors. He says his agent acted “independently.” That agent was fired. He points to COVID-19, too. That dragged the entire free agent market down with veterans, all over, signing minimum contracts. But that doubt lingered. Like a virus.

Then, he smashed it. He took matters into his own hands.

Because here’s what Logan Ryan — unemployed, 29-year-old vet — did next: Create the single-most grueling “training camp” of his life. All along, Ryan planned on switching to safety and becoming the best safety in the NFL. So, that’s how he trained. There were no cameras around. Nobody else cared. But with his family, in Tampa, Ryan built a football field right on his property. Ryan researched which trainer would be the hardest on him, was told to link up with ex-NFL wide receiver Yo Murphy, and he quickly realized the two of them were “a match made in heaven.” When Murphy asked Ryan what time he wanted to start training on Day 1, Ryan said “5 a.m.” as a test, showed up at 4:45 a.m. and Murphy was already there. 

Ryan flew in his private defensive backs coach from Phoenix, Will Sullivan, who famously trained Darrelle Revis.

And Ryan had players around the league send him their team’s training camp schedule to simulate his own practices. Only, his were longer. More difficult. More grueling. More reminiscent of what you’d see in the ‘90s. If that team practiced two hours? He went for two and a half. In a helmet and full pads, too. All along, ultra-hungry players teetering on the NFL fringes trained with him. All along, Ryan felt the need to dominate.

“I was a very determined man,” Ryan says. “I wanted to be Logan Ryan. I felt like I was doubted. And I felt like that all through my career. I was a third-round draft pick out of Rutgers, you know? I have that chip. I have that motivation.”

So, here was a typical day. Around 4:30 a.m. he’d roll out of bed and, “half-asleep,” get to the training facility around 5. He’d stretch. He’d rip through plyometric work. He’d do a track-like warmup to get his hips and hamstrings loose, often without shoes on to strengthen his feet.

Then, it was time to lift weights. He may hit the squats hard, loading that barbell up with 45-pound plates.

Then, around 8, he’d hit the field.

Pads on, Ryan simulated an NFL practice with select “sparring partners” to cover and hit. By 10:30 a.m. it’s “steaming hot” in Tampa, too. Temperatures reached 110 degrees. With hardly any breakfast in his stomach, Ryan remembers being on fumes. Yet, he’d always finish up with conditioning — either a sprint workout or one running drill made famous in New England. The best way Ryan can explain this is it’s “constant running” for three minutes straight. You try gaining as many yards — “750 yards, whatever it may be” — as fast as possible. Ryan would then return home around noon, shower, hang out with his kids, get a massage around 1:30 p.m. and do more prehab work on his ankles, his feet, his hip flexors, his hammies, maybe even do some Pilates.

Ryan needed to “build up a callous.”

And training with all of these undrafted NFL free agents who were just praying their agents would get a sniff of a lead kept his own competitive juices flowing. Ryan was ruthless.

“I wanted to make sure that I crushed every single one of them in every single workout,” he says. “I wanted to make sure there was a difference between me and the undrafted guy there. I wanted to make sure there was a difference between this guy who’s a rookie who’s so hungry and has so many dreams to be in the NFL — waiting on this call — and I’m at Year 7, Year 8 of this career and made millions of dollars but they’re not going to out-work me. They’re not hungrier than I am. I wanted to make sure I earned the respect of everybody so nobody went home and said, ‘I worked out with Logan Ryan today and I beat him in a sprint.’ I won every sprint. I made sure I was lifting the most weight. I made sure there was a clear distinction between me and everybody else there.

“I had to get over my ego of ‘Damn, why I am here? Why am I training with these guys?’ Those guys became my friends. Those guys pushed me. We were there together every single day, fighting to get a job.”

By Aug. 31, it was time. The Giants signed Ryan to a one-year deal worth up to $7.5 million deal and Judge told the coaches that he knew Ryan from their New England days together. He knew Ryan would arrive in phenomenal shape.

He was right.

Right then, Ryan made a promise to Judge. Not only would he pour his heart and soul into this opportunity — he’d make these Giants believe in themselves, too.

Down, not out

Of course, this all appeared to be a complete disaster.

Instantly.

The first bad omen was when the Ryans tried to find an apartment in New Jersey and had more than 30 applications turned down because they had a pit bull. Ryan, of course, is rapidly becoming the face of the animal rescue movement and Ashley is a animal trainer herself. But nothing mattered, denial after denial. On his radio show, Ryan let’r rip. He was pissed. (More on his work with animals coming in The Thread Monday for you dog lovers.)

Then, came the losses. Heartbreaking losses. Five by one touchdown or less. The one beacon of hope on this roster, Saquon Barkley, tore his ACL.

Then, in Loss No. 5, Ryan did what he’s done 538 times in his NFL career. He tackled an opposing player. Only this tackle led to people wanting him dead. After Ryan brought down Prescott — the quarterback’s right leg incidentally snapping —  Ryan’s social media channels blew up with death threats directed at both him and his wife. He doesn’t fear Twitter trolls but Ryan still felt compelled to alert the Giants for his family’s safety.

Says Ryan, “There are some mean, nasty people in this world.”

Which should’ve been rock bottom — for everyone. The Giants fell to 0-5 that night.

Thing is, nobody quit.

Even as those losses mounted, Ryan could tell this group was different. Getting teammates to bust ass was never a problem. They were already working extremely hard. Judge took care of that. The problem? Ryan didn’t know if these Giants actually believed they could win. Ryan didn’t know if this young team had any clue just how good they were. And in a sport played by human beings — not on a computer — such an absence of raw belief can be the difference between 0-5 and 5-0.

Ryan would know. All Ryan’s done his entire career is win. And while he doesn’t believe in “curses,” all the losing the Giants had been through years prior sort of felt like a curse. Like a “stain.” Like players were waiting for something to go wrong.

Says Ryan: “Some of the players just don’t know what it’s like to win. I saw the sacrifices being put in. They just weren’t being rewarded with wins. So I knew regardless how we started, if we just kept sticking together, that it’s going to be worth it and it’s going to grow and it’s going to snowball. We never fractured. We never splintered during the rough start. We never lost faith. We never stopped working. That was demanded by Joe Judge and the coaching staff.”

And that mindset Ryan established in Florida was injected right into a team that needed it.

Ryan hears players asked all the time what type of leader they are. Like clockwork, most all claim to “lead by example.” He wanted his own actions to speak, of course. But even as a new guy, even as an 11th Hour signing arriving after captains were already declared, Ryan absolutely wanted his voice heard.

“I’m going to lead,” Ryan says, “from the front.”

The Giants finally won a game and Ryan saw players starting to realize, “OK, we’re that blue-collar group. We’re that underdog group.” All the little things he was doing behind the scenes, finally, started to manifest on the scoreboard.

This is how Ryan leads in front:

  • Ryan makes sure he is the first player in the building. Always.

  • In the weight room, Ryan trains way harder than NFL players typically do in-season. Lifting sessions with fellow ex-Patriot, Nate Ebner, often rev into Olympic-like competitions. Neither care if their legs are sore from practice the day before — they’re front-squatting 315 pounds. They’re not alone, either. All of a sudden, cornerback James Bradberry started front-squatting 250. And another player took the plunge. And another. And another It’s contagious.

  • In practice, Ryan gets in as many reps in as many drills as possible. He never asks for a breather. More starters are doing the same.

  • After work, he never stops thinking about the scheme. The dialogue between Ryan and DC Patrick Graham is continuous. Together, they’re always tweaking coverages. The two were together in New England — they can both recall random plays from, say, the ’14 Super Bowl team. Graham is never afraid to call Ryan at 11 p.m. to see if he loaded the gameplan up with too much. Ryan is never afraid to call Graham during Monday Night Football and ask, “Did you see that defense? We should install it. Let’s do it like this.” The week the Giants played the Bucs, Ryan pinpointed a disguise that worked against Tom Brady in practice that could work for New York. In time, the Giants’ defense gets more and more complex.

  • Schematically, now, Ryan is the Giants’ roaming chess piece. He has 67 tackles, eight passes defensed, one sack and the one pick.

  • He watched every second of the NBA Finals because he’s a LeBron James fan but, through that six-game series, Ryan could not take his eyes off another player: Jimmy Butler. It was so clear, so obvious: Butler made everyone on the Heat believe. Everyone was feeding off of him. And it hit Ryan right then: He could have the same effect. Says Ryan: “I just felt like when I came, I came with this fire of ‘I want it all. Let’s get to work. Let’s not be afraid of anybody.’”

So, this team kept fighting. Nobody bailed when it was so, so easy to bail. When guys could’ve, as Ryan puts, quit and started partying in NYC.

These Giants, unlike previous editions, have pride.

“Honestly, it’s just being really, really — what’s the step before obsessed? Or crazy? — is it passionate? Passionate about the game. About this season. Because to me, I signed up for an all-out blitz of 17 weeks plus the postseason. I was like, I’ve got 17 weeks to prove how good I am and how good my team can be. And make my teammates better and make my organization believe.”

Bradberry, who has cemented his status as a premier shutdown cornerback this season, assures that even when the Giants were 1-7 their “will to win” never waned. Coaches remained obsessed with the fundamentals every practice and, Bradberry believes, the fact that this is such a young team helps. You don’t know what you don’t know. Ryan was this team’s tipping point. Ryan was a major reason all 53 players kept pushing.

Ryan knows what to say and when.

“He has made everybody buy in and believe,” Bradberry says. “He was that vocal leader that brought the offense and the defense together. Logan was the guy who stepped up. When we’d come in for halftime, he’d speak. He became that vocal leader to tie everyone together.”

Of course, the night of Loss No. 7 hit hard.

Everything Ryan and the Giants built could’ve collapsed for good that night and it had nothing to do with anything the Buccaneers did in their 25-23 victory. There was no way Logan Ryan could have ever prepared himself for this.

Life and death

The thing about tragedy is you cannot prepare for it. Tragedy strikes when you absolutely do not expect it, when your guard is down.

This was totally unexpected in every conceivable way.

Ryan was in New York licking his wounds. His Giants had just fallen to 1-7 after the loss to the Buccaneers and he was beat up. A hip pointer. A thigh bruise. Aches all over. Ryan stayed late with a trainer to get it all checked out.

Ryan’s wife was at their home in Florida because she wanted her presidential vote to count in a swing state. The night before, she told Ryan she was having stomach pains. The pains passed. Then at 1 a.m., the pains returned. As Ryan left the stadium, he called her and Ashley said her stomach was killing her. She couldn’t move. Right away, Ryan called team trainer, Justin Maher, because he knew he was still up. He had just seen him at MetLife Stadium.

Maher implored the Ryans to get it checked out. Logan told Ashley. Ashley basically said the same thing Logan did to Maher — “Really? It’s 2 a.m. Can it wait?” But they didn’t want to mess around with this. Ashley and her sister went directly to the ER and the news, initially, was cause for celebration. Ashley discovered she was pregnant, a miracle considering she had an intrauterine device (IUD).

Granted, they weren’t trying to have a third child. These college sweethearts could still rejoice.

This felt, Ryan recalls, “meant to be.”

At around 3 a.m., Ryan headed to bed thinking about raising another baby. In physical pain himself, Ryan guesses he slept maybe 15 minutes. Still, there was peace in knowing — ah, of course!that’s why Ashley had those stomach pains and that’s why she wasn’t feeling good on the flight south. Everything made sense. Until it didn’t. Ryan awoke to a call at 5:15 a.m. He saw he had a missed call at 5 a.m. It was Ashley. She was crying. She said the pregnancy didn’t look good because “the baby’s in the wrong place” and she was headed into emergency surgery. Ashley was crying so much that Ryan had a difficult time piecing together exactly what was going on.

He spoke with Ashley’s sister and the news crushed him: This was an ectopic pregnancy. That fallopian tube was on the verge of bursting.

Doctors would need to operate on Ashley ASAP to stop the internal bleeding, remove the ectopic pregnancy and save her life. They did. She survived.

But this swing of emotions is something that’s impossible for Ryan to even put into words.

That morning, he called Judge and Judge told him not to worry about delays in COVID testing if he had to go to Florida. Judge said not to worry about missing games — “Your family comes first.” Thankfully, Ashley was stable and Ashley told her husband not to fly south. So he stayed in New Jersey, he got that interception and — together again up north — they healed.

“Crying with my wife,” Ryan says, “it was emotional and still is. My wife is more important to me than football. I thought about it on the football field all the time. I think about my child that I lost all the time. I don’t have it all together all the time. I just did the best I could moment to moment and realized I had strength to keep pushing from one moment to the next moment in supporting my wife and my wife supporting me. She was able to make a physical recovery. Emotionally, I think that takes time. Who knows how much time? It’s still taking time.”

They’re still thanking God for Maher. If not for him, she might not be alive. He’s the only reason Ryan wanted to go public with this — the world needed to know Maher’s name. And when Ashley posted her experience on Instagram, so many strangers reached out to say they went through the same thing. The shame. The grief. The silent burden one carries after a miscarriage, Ryan explains, is unbelievably heavy.  

“How long do you carry it?” he says. “Where is the manual on how to grieve?”

Countless women reached out to say they now felt comfortable sharing their own stories.

After back-to-back Giants wins, the Ryans were able to reset and recover over a bye week. Ryan put those seven pounds back on. And, now, Ryan’s voice has more impact than it even did before. Players saw him and his wife, somehow, endure. This was life and death.

So there was Ryan, gathering the entire team together before taking the field in Seattle. Nobody gave the Giants a shot that day, of course. They were 10.5-point underdogs. Ryan spoke, everyone listened and New York shut down one of the league’s best offenses. Russell Wilson has 107.6 passer rating on the season. That day? He had a 78.0 rating and was sacked five times.

Says Bradberry: “Logan rallied us together before we went out there and he said, ‘No one’s going to help us out here. We have to do it ourselves. We’ve been working hard, week in and week out. We have to keep making plays so this can pay off for us.’ We went out there and kept playing, kept playing, kept playing, came into halftime and we were still in the game. People started speaking, started being vocal again, and we kept the momentum going.

“He always has the right thing to say — honestly.”

The Giants have now won four straight.

They’re not done.

A new mentality

No wonder Ryan calls this chapter of his life a “mini documentary.” He can’t keep up with the highs and lows himself.

All Ryan knows now is that everything is aligning perfectly. He knows from experience that it doesn’t matter what you do in September and October. If you’re hot now? In December? That’s what counts. His Patriots teams always heated up at the perfect time. Last year’s Titans, too. And his New York Giants, right now, are peaking. Ryan has never had this much fun playing pro football.

“Because,” Ryan says, “we’re fighting for everything we have. We may not be undefeated but we’re not front-runners, either. We’re not people that are like, ‘Uhh, the season didn’t start well. Let’s implode.’ We’re sticking with it. We’re building through it. And I think it’s a true success story and we’re going to see how this story ends.”

Here’s what gives him hope this story ends well, too.

Joe Judge. He’s a “great coach,” Ryan begins. “Not a good coach. A great coach.” The Giants nailed this hire after whiffing badly on Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur. Ryan calls him extremely tough, yet extremely fair because Judge masterfully strikes the balance of being discipline and compassionate. He has a great pulse on this team, knowing precisely what it needs in the moment. Judge’s training camp? It was intense. The Giants still do more tackling drills than any team Ryan’s been on. But Judge also knows when to tap the brakes, when to have a walkthrough if his team’s beat up. Now, all of the fundamentals he’s been harping on forever are showing up on Sundays.

All the stuff that seems “mundane” is what Judge drills home.

Says Ryan: “You can beat a more talented player with more fundamentals.”

Daniel Jones. If Ryan isn’t the first player in the building, it’s because the quarterback beat him there. Ryan calls Jones athletic, smart and faster than anyone realizes with a “rocket arm.” But it’s Jones’ temperament he loves most. It’s not easy replacing a beloved figure, like Eli Manning, but Jones is doing everything in his power to be that heir apparent. Jones stays at the facility long after Ryan leaves, too. Maybe the 2019 sixth overall pick can supply just enough offense for these Giants to keep winning.

Everyone believes. There’s no denying it now. Ryan sees a team that believes the sacrifice it is putting in will, now, lead to wins. To a reward. When does a team become a legit contender? Ryan points to his Titans being left for dead at 2-4 before coming within one game of the Super Bowl. All the Giants need to do, he says, is “get in the dance” and, hey, anything is possible.

Especially with how Logan Ryan attacks every day now. Through this all, he made a slight tweak to his mindset.

All summer, Ryan says he was driven by an I’m going to prove everybody wrong mentality. That was needed then, too. Nobody wanted him.

But after nearly losing Ashley? His energy “shifted.”

“From this fear, from this fierce grit and revenge and ‘show them’ to this, like, ‘I can’t lose. I’m going to show everybody I’m inspired. I love my family’ type of thing,” Ryan says. “I didn’t know what life was trying to teach me in the moment. But it was to get rid of all that negative energy that I was harnessing and to really just, ‘Look what you do have, Logan. Look at what you have accomplished. Look at what you are.’ Now, I’m really proving to myself, ‘Wow, I really am happy to be this player, happy to be this person, happy to be this man, this father, this husband. Don’t take that for granted.’”

He will now simply live in every single moment. He now appreciates every second of every practice, every game.

Because if that scare taught Ryan anything, it’s that you only get so many days in life.

“Obviously, we don’t know how many we’ve got,” he continues. “You don’t know how many your wife’s got. So, to really be there, be a great Dad. To not be afraid to say I want to be the best safety in the league and I’m working toward that. I want to be the best leader for this team that I can be. If I tell the team — ‘Hey, I’m going to give you everything I’ve got and empty the tank and there’s only 30-some days left in the season’ — we have to really give it our all and empty the tank.”

That’s what Logan Ryan is saying now.

The Giants are listening, too.

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