Safety Mundy hopes to make most of starting gig

Ryan Mundy is no longer waiting for an NFL starting job. The New

York Giants just gave him one.

Mundy snared the Giants’ free safety spot Saturday night when

Stevie Brown tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee

while returning an interception in the Giants’ 24-21 overtime loss

to the Jets.

The injury was fluky. Brown, who led the team with eight

interceptions last season, planted his foot and his knee gave out.

And it certainly was not the way Mundy wanted a starting spot, but

that’s the position he’s in less than two weeks before the season

opener at Dallas.

”It’s always an unfortunate situation when you see a good

player and your friend go down with an unfortunate injury,” Mundy

said Monday before practice. ”But this is a situation I’m familiar

with stepping in for guys who when they go do down, and I’m excited

about that opportunity and to make the most of it.”

Mundy started five games last season with the Pittsburgh

Steelers, filling in for two of the top safeties in the league,

Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu.

When Clark was out, Mundy played free safety. When Polamalu was

sidelined, he went to strong safety.

That is going to help him with the Giants, who signed him as a

free agent this spring.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to safeties to

flip-flop at times, so they play both spots.

Entering his fifth season, Mundy has to develop chemistry with

fellow safety Antrel Rolle in a hurry, and that might be tough.

Rolle, after all, is returning from an ankle injury and is not

likely to play Thursday at New England in the preseason finale.

”I pride myself on being like an above-the-neck-type player,”

Mundy said. ”I have a great understanding of the defense and

that’s something I’m continuing to work on each and every day. I’m

very comfortable with where I’m at. I’m happy with my progress, but

still I feel like I have a lot of work to do.”

Rolle believes that the more he plays with Mundy, and the more

they talk on the field and in the meeting rooms, the chemistry

won’t be a problem.

”He’s a physical presence, he’s a smart guy and he understands

the game,” Rolle said before practicing with Mundy. ”We’re

looking for Ryan to come in and do big things. We’ve said that

before. Stevie got hurt, and we’re going to need him more now.

”I’m sure Ryan will come in and do a great job.”

The problem for the Giants might be their depth at safety. Other

than his play on special teams, third-year pro Tyler Sash has not

been tested much. Second-year pro Will Hill is more athletic than

Sash but he is going to sit out the first four games for violating

the NFL’s substance abuse policy for the second straight year. And

rookie Cooper Taylor missed a chunk of training camp with a

hamstring injury and just returned to practice.

Fewell has other options. Veteran cornerbacks Aaron Ross and

Terrell Thomas have played safety in their careers and they are

tested.

Thomas, who is just returning to the NFL after missing two

seasons with major knee injuries, is ready if they need him.

”I told you guys, I’d been learning the safety position to be a

utility guy number one and, second, just to have a better feel for

the defense and knowing everybody’s responsibility, becoming a

leader and being able to communicate,” Thomas said. ”If they call

my button, I’ll be ready to go.”

NOTES: The only player left on physically unable to perform list

is second-year DT Markus Kuhn (knee). Coach Tom Coughlin said he is

getting close to returning. … CB Corey Webster (groin-knee) and

WR Ramses Barden (knee) returned to practice. … The experiments

on the offensive line continue this week, as Kevin Boothe moved to

center and James Brewer took over at left guard. Jim Cordle played

center Saturday. … Coughlin indicated his starters would play

some against the Patriots on Thursday in the preseason finale.