(Eds: With AP Photos.)By TOM CANAVANAP Sports Writer
New York Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason seems to be turning a walk-year into a big contract.
Acquired from the Carolina Panthers in a midseason trade amid speculation that he might be damaged goods, Beason has not only shown there is still a lot in his tank, the seven-year veteran has become the glue that has helped turn around a struggling defense.
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Since Beason replaced Mark Herzlich at middle linebacker against Chicago on Oct. 10, the Giants (5-7) have won five of seven games and been competitive in the other two.
The 28-year-old linebacker tied his career high with 17 tackles in a 24-17 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. With 57 total tackles, he’s third on the team, just 10 behind team Antrel Rolle, who has played in four more games.
”He has been a great voice for us,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Thursday after the team practiced for Sunday’s game in San Diego against the Chargers (5-7). ”On the defense you don’t think you need a quarterback, but you need a quarterback, someone who can go in and command the front and relate to the back row. Jon has been able to do that. He is very good at understanding situations and being able to talk to all his defensive players and play the game at a fast tempo.”
What makes Beason’s adjustment so exceptional is that he came to the Giants midseason with no knowledge of their system. Within a couple of weeks, he was running the show and making all the calls.
The one problem for the Giants is that Beason has one year left on a renegotiated contract that will pay him $1 million this season. He becomes a free agent at the end of the year unless the Giants re-sign him.
Drew Rosenhaus, Beason’s agent, said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday that he could not discuss whether he is in talks with the team about retaining the former University of Miami player.
Coach Tom Coughlin brushed aside the topic of next year on Thursday, saying he is focused on this week.
Given a choice, Beason would like to stay, adding he’ll worry about next year down the road.
”I am enjoying it,” Beason said. ”The team has welcomed me. I like the city. We’re winning, we’re trending upward. I think we are going to be a scary team that next year, or if we get help this year and get in the dance, we can do some things. For me, this is where I want to be. All I can control is my performance and the team will do what is best for the team.”
Most of the Giants didn’t know what to expect when general manager Jerry Reese made the deal for Beason, who missed most of the past two seasons with an Achilles’ tendon injury, shoulder and knee injuries. He had lost his starting job to Luke Kuechly and was on the Panthers’ bench when the trade was made.
Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas thought that former Giants executive and current Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was helping out his old team by getting rid of a former starter.
Teammates discovered that Beason was a passionate leader who was humble asking questions and confident in expressing his own opinion. On the field, he is playmaker.
”He is just a rabbit to chase,” defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. ”You watch him out there and he goes HARD on every single play. It forces everyone out there to raise their level.”
”Since he has been here he has been the total package for us at linebacker,” defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins added. ”He has certainly helped us out a lot. He play reckless out there, You can’t tell he is coming off an injury. Looking at the way he plays, you would never know.”
The Giants have given up just over 16 points a game since Beason became a starter, but 42 of those points were the result of mistakes by the Giants’ offense and special teams.
”I love the game and given a chance to play, it excites me, always,” Beason said. ”I am always going to do whatever it takes, and it has gone well so far.”