EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Jeremy Shockey made a rare appearance at New York Giants' voluntary offseason workouts this week, but the four-time Pro Bowl tight end cautioned not to read too much into it.
``I'm glad I'm here and I enjoy it, but I hope people get used to it because next year it's going to be an issue again, and again the next year,'' he said.
Shockey has always taken the ``voluntary'' part of the Giants' offseason workout program to heart, and has been roundly criticized for following his own conditioning program at the University of Miami, where he played in 2000 and 2001.
This year, he decided to join the rest of the Giants, and on Friday responded to critics who have said he has placed his own priorities above the team's.
``It's a slap in my face that people don't think that I'm trying to do something that betters myself,'' Shockey said in a lengthy, mostly upbeat interview in front of his locker. ``First things first. I have to improve myself if I'm going to improve this team. I'm not out drinking every night and going out. If I do, you'd better believe I'm working out the next day.
``As far as people questioning my character ... I play hurt, with broken bones, and I'm going to continue like that. It seems no matter what I do, it's not enough for people. I'm not here trying to make new friends, I'm here trying to help this team win.''
The Shockey saga became an offseason distraction the last two years after both he and wide receiver Plaxico Burress passed up the team's workouts to train in Florida. Some viewed the move as an act of selfishness, and there were insinuations that their absence may have adversely affected their timing with quarterback Eli Manning.
Even Manning, who rarely says anything controversial about anybody, criticized the two for not being with the team.
Manning, who said he called Shockey last week to see if he was coming north, lauded Shockey's work with the team's other tight ends, a group that features no players with more than a year of NFL experience after the departure of backup Visanthe Shiancoe in March.
``It's been good having him back because he teaches them,'' Manning said. ``He's great working around those guys, trying to get them in tune to everything that's going on, different scenarios. They get to watch him do it and see how it's done, so it's been good both ways.''
Shockey downplayed the controversy and reiterated that the regimen he follows in Florida, which players such as former Hurricanes Santana Moss and Edgerrin James have also participated in, is more beneficial to him than the team's workouts.
``I work hard every year, and one way to do that is to work in a very intense, very hot environment like Miami,'' he said. ``When I was getting flak for this thing it was 40 degrees and raining out and they were still working inside in the bubble. I'm not trying to change anybody's opinions. If people think I'm not doing this to help the team, so be it. I don't have to prove anything to anyone.''
Shockey isn't even close to the most pressing concern on the offensive line for coach Tom Coughlin. He has yet to officially name a left tackle to replace veteran Luke Petitgout, who was released in the offseason.
David Diehl, normally a guard but a player who can play any of the positions on the line, shifted to left tackle when injuries forced the Giants to shuffle positions and is seen as the likely choice. New York is also looking at sixth-round draft choice Adam Koets and 2006 fourth-round pick Guy Whimper, and this week signed veteran lineman Zach Piller, formerly of Tennessee.
Coughlin said he would wait until training camp before he made a final decision.
``We will go into training camp working like we are right now, giving different people opportunities at different positions,'' he said. ``That won't affect Diehl at all. You can put him in any kind of spot and after a period of time he'll be comfortable. There'll be a time to make the right decision, and I'll make it at that time.''
Coughlin also said that fullback Jim Finn hasn't attended workouts because of a shoulder injury.

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