Nate Solder forgot what it was like to have a fall without football.
Solder opted out of last season due to his high-risk for COVID-19 — he is a cancer survivor while his 5-year-old son, Hudson, has undergone treatments for a rare form of kidney cancer. Having weathered a football-less fall for the first time since middle school, Solder is eager to hit the ground running.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of the NFL,” Solder said. “I would say I missed the excitement and fun of being a part of it, so I’m fortunate to be in this position.”
In March, Solder and the Giants agreed on a restructured contract that turned into a drastic pay cut, with Solder set to earn $4 million and the Giants saving approximately $6 million in cap space. With two years remaining on his contract, Solder returns as a critical depth piece and veteran presence.
Last season, veteran Cameron Fleming, expected to be a backup, stepped up in Solder’s absence and started opposite first-round pick Andrew Thomas. Rookie Matt Peart also impressed in a reserve role. Peart and Thomas are now penciled in as starters, leaving Solder on the outside looking in.
During Wednesday’s practice, Solder saw reps with both the first and second teams, though the bulk of his time occurred with the second unit. Solder has started all but three games in his nine-year NFL career, last coming off the bench as a rookie in 2011.
Nonetheless, Solder is embracing his new role.
“Who cares who starts?” Solder said. “I just want to be a part of an excellent group that’s getting better every day, that plays at a really high level. I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some great O-lines and nobody cares who is starting and who is not starting because we’re all part of the team and we’re all necessary and we’re all needed.
“So if I can encourage, protect, guide, lead and compete, whatever it takes, I’m here to do it.”
In his time away, Solder practiced pass sets in his backyard and used the weight room in his basement. He maintains he is “as fast and strong as I feel like I have ever been.”
“He’s been working hard for us,” Giants coach Joe Judge said. “He took time to get his body back going, obviously with time away from the game, take time to re-acclimate and get back in playing shape.”
Come the season, Solder insists he’ll be ready whenever called upon.
“Whatever the case is gonna be, I’m gonna work my tail off and do the best I can to support the guys around me,” Solder said.