EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – From the moment he injured his foot on June 12, Jon Beason’s goal was to play in the season opener in Detroit on Sept. 8.
He reiterated that desire many times in the ensuing weeks. But it wasn’t until Monday, Aug. 18 that Beason was certain he would face the Lions.
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Beason was set back a couple of days with food poisoning. Last Monday, he worked on change of direction on artificial turf, which he called, “huge.” But he didn’t practice nor did he play in the preseason finale Thursday vs. New England.
“That could be a blessing in disguise,” Beason said. “I got more rest going forward. Now it’s time to go full tilt.”
Beason practiced for the first time today since he suffered a ligament tear and a small fracture to the sesamoid in his foot during an OTA workout. He did not need surgery and spent the last two-plus months rehabbing.
“I feel pretty good,” Beason said. “Just happy to be back out there, working for one common goal with my teammates. Doing what I love. It feels good to get my feet wet again.”
Beason missed every training camp practice and the team’s five preseason games, but he was in meetings and was on the field listening to the defensive calls and supporting his teammates. He believes he can play well in Detroit despite his lengthy absence.
“Obviously, you want to gauge where I am mentally and physically,” he said. “What my role is going to be, how big or small, you don’t know. But I am taking advantage of the reps they are giving me. I am trying to prove why I need to be out there.”
Coach Tom Coughlin and the other defensive players were thrilled to have Beason back on the field.
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“It’s good to see him back,” defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. “He’s a hell of a player. He came out when we needed him last year and did a very effective job. It was tough to see him go down with an injury, but having him back out there on the field is good. It’s good for us as a team when you can get everybody working.”
Beason and the coaches won’t know until the end of the practice how many snaps he can take in the game. But his return to the middle of the defense will lift the entire unit, because Beason is both an outstanding player and an inspirational leader.
“His presence on the practice field is going to change things,” Coughlin said. “That is going to change a lot of things.
“It’s the upbeat, the love to play, fly around a million miles per hour, encouraging other people to do the same or better, and just how hard he plays. He shows great example in what he does, he loves the game, so it is great to have him back out there.”
Beason came to the Giants last Oct. 4 after spending the first six years and three games of his career with the Carolina Panthers. The three-time Pro Bowler finished second on the team with 98 tackles (75 solo), despite playing only 11 games at linebacker. Beason galvanized a defense that was ranked 26th in the NFL when he entered the lineup (allowing an average of 395.2 yards per game) and finished the season ranked eighth, giving up 332.3 yards a game.
In Beason’s absence, veteran Jameel McClain played middle linebacker, with rookie Devon Kennard stepping in for McClain on the strong side.
“Obviously, Jameel did a tremendous job coming in and filling the role,” Kiwanuka said. “I think he showed and he definitely deserves to be out there on the field, so we’ll find a way to get him out there. Just excited to have that group solid and back to where it was so we can get rolling.”
Beason is the one who sets the tone, not just for the linebackers, but for the entire defense. He is confident he will make a difference on Monday night, even if he has an abbreviated stint.
“When you want to go out there you want to play at the highest level,” he said. “You want to give the maximum effort on every single play. You give everything you can, and if you can’t go, then (you have to say), ‘Hey coach, I have to get out of the game.’ I feel great about the guys we have in our room, the rotation that we can have. Knowing I have that in my back pocket, I just want to give everything, but if I can’t, then get me out of there. I feel good about where I should be.”