Landon Collins may have a point, but his “cancerous” comments toward Eli Apple could infect the New York Giants’ tenuous future.

“How can this season get any sillier?” New York Giants fans have asked this same question countless times throughout the 2017 season.

To reply, their team has rolled up their sleeves and declared “Hold our Gatorade!”.

The final week of this brutal campaign wouldn’t be complete without a Giants-branded controversy, as the feud between secondary teammates Landon Collins and Eli Apple has reached a boiling point. In a radio interview with ESPN’s Bob Wischusen, Collins, who was recently ruled out for the Giants’ finale against Washington on Sunday (1 p.m ET, FOX), referred to Apple as “a cancer”.

Collins never referred to Apple by name, but it was clear who he was referring to.

“There’s only just one corner that needs to grow, and we all know who that is,” he said. After offering praise for fellow defenders Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins, Collins offered the damning critique of Apple: “That first pick … he’s a cancer.”

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In the carnival sideshow that is the 2017 New York Giants, Apple has been one of the star performers. Whether it’s been questions about his effort, mysterious stretches of inactivity, or ill-advised retweets, a sophomore slump would be too kind of a label for the cornerback’s second year. Outside of football, Apple has dealt with several personal issues, ones recently documented by NJ Advance Media’s Dan Duggan.

Ripples in the relationship between Collins and Apple were apparent two weeks ago, in the aftermath of Apple’s retweet of an Ohio State fan account commemorating Dallas Cowboys running back Rod Smith’s game-sealing touchdown against the Giants in their Dec. 10 showdown. Apple and Smith were teammates in Columbus. Earlier that week, Collins said he discussed the situation with Apple, but the Ohio State alum denied that Collins did so. The safety brushed off the apparent slight the next day but now appears to have no qualms about speaking out on the matter.

Collins would later apologize for the controversy in a Wednesday afternoon tweet, mentioning he spoke with both interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo and quarterback/captain Eli Manning on the matter. In his afternoon press conference, Spagnuolo revealed he met with both Collins and Apple and considers the matter closed.

The damage, however, is already done. No longer is the focus on the Giants’ wrap-up on Sunday. Sure, no one in their right mind is probably going to actively seek out that game anyway (save for a potential Davis Webb appearance), but the comments could rock the Giants’ long-term ideas as well.

Maybe Collins is right in the idea that Apple needs to mature. Maybe Collins never did address Apple about “Retweet-Gate”. But Collins’s latest statements put the Giants’ new leadership group in an awkward position.

With Collins having broken out as an All-Pro defender over the past couple of seasons, the obvious choice seems to be to side with him. But Apple, remember, is a first round pick selected in the top 10, which, traditionally, is considered an anomaly in East Rutherford. Look at the reluctance, at least from the previous regime, in calling out tackle Ereck Flowers, 2017’s ninth overall pick. The new coaching staff could see the potential that Apple displayed in both his rookie year and in Columbus and label him a project, a new lump of clay to remold into a contributor. Of course, a trade is possible, but could you get much for a guy who was labeled a “cancer” by one of his own teammates?

For Collins, the cancer remark seems out of character. The safety has not let success go to his head, refusing to forget where he’s come from. In the midst of this egregiously awful season, Collins has been a silver lining on the field and off. His weekly cooperation and general demeanor with the media recently earned him the “George Young Good Guy Award”, presented annually to the Giants who works best with reporters, constantly greeting them with information and a smile.

But 2017, bar none the worst year in Giants history, as appeared to sweep him up too.

2017 began with Super Bowl aspirations and is concluding with the realization that the Giants are probably not just one rather high draft pick from being instant contenders again. Collins’ comments are only going to make things harder for a new leadership group.

In the end, though, could it really have ended any other way?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490


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