Austin Calitro spent a portion of the 2020 season with the Cincinnati Bengals and later returned to the team in 2022 for their wild Super Bowl run. But on Sunday, he’ll be suiting up for the New York Giants and taking on his old mates.
Understandably, Calitro is looking forward to the matchup.
“I’m looking forward to it, I built a good relationship with a lot of those guys,” Calitro told reporters. “The bond we had from last year, I was actually there in 2020 before they traded me to Denver, and it was kind of full circle that I got to go back last year and be a part of that run because I saw what they were building before Joe (Burrow) got hurt.
“To come back and feel the vibe and the team vibes, the locker room was closer than it was when I left. To have everyone healthy and to go on that run was fun, it’ll be nice to say hi to a couple of the guys before the game and say hi to the coaches that I made a connection with, but when the ball snaps it’s time to go.”
The Giants, of course, are trying to emulate the sort of turnaround Cincinnati experienced last season. And Calitro said the second he stepped foot into the East Rutherford buildings, he felt those same sort of vibes.
“The first thing that I noticed when I walked in my first week here was how close the locker room was, and I think first and foremost if you have a culture and a close locker room if everything else goes bad that’s something you can fall back on. Something they had in Cincinnati is they had a bunch of young talented players and we have that here too,” he said.
“Speaking of the coaches, I think everyone is pretty much in sync coach-wise, and front office-wise, and (Brian Daboll) does a great job telling everyone what he expects, and he holds that to us. That’s the start of a great team in my opinion. I wasn’t there for the entire turnaround, but like I said, when I went back you can tell they didn’t skip a beat. (Bengals head coach) Zac Taylor still had his expectations, and Dabes is the same kind of guy — he has his expectations and you’ve got to meet them.”
Calitro also praised Giants defense coordinator Wink Martindale, who he credited for a great call on Thursday night’s interception against the New England Patriots.
“I happened to get into the window and just did my job at the right time,” Calitro said. “Wink made a great call, it was fourth-and-short, so we knew it was some kind of quick routes, I kind of used my instincts there and tried to bat the ball. I think you guys saw the result.”
Like the close-knit locker-room, Martindale also gives off that winning vibe in Calitro’s eyes.
“To be honest with you, he’s one of the first coaches that I’ve had outside of (former Seahawks defensive coordinator) Coach Norton in Seattle that really keeps it real.” he said. “He tells you where you are, why you are where you are and what you can do to get better in the things you struggle at.
“As an undrafted guy myself, throughout the last six years it’s been difficult, but for me to finally have a coach that tells you what he needs from you and how he sees you and just being upfront and honest is really a blessing and it really puts your mind at ease as well.”