There’s one name that often gets omitted when the new faces that will be donning blue in 2014 are talked about.
There’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the high profile, prized free agent acquisition of General Manager Jerry Reese. Lining up next to him is Walter Thurmond III, a player whose talk seems to emulate that of a corner whom he shared Seattle’s secondary with. There’s Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton and draftee Odell Beckham Jr., too.
But one player has gone near unnoticed, sliding quietly back to the position he held two years ago.
“I know what I can do,” Stevie Brown said. “It’s just continuing to prove it.”
WATCH: Safety Stevie Brown discusses his return to the practice field http://t.co/NJu2pwzQsv
— New York Giants (@Giants) May 29, 2014
In 2012, Brown proved that not only did he have the potential to be a starting safety in the NFL, but a pretty good one at that. After signing with the Giants following two sub-par years in Oakland and Indianapolis, Brown broke out. Playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career, the former seventh-round pick recorded 76 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recovers and tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight.
Brown was a key component in New York feeling comfortable letting former first-round pick Kenny Phillips walk in free agency, all but penciling the 26-year-old in opposite Antrel Rolle atop the depth chart.
Entering last season, Rolle and Brown began to talk, boasting claims the two had the potential to be the best safety tandem in the NFL, but versus the Jets in the third preseason game of the season, all that chatter was put on hold. Brown intercepted a Geno Smith that sailed high and behind intended target Kellen Winslow.
As he had done so many times the season before, Brown began to work his way up the field. The safety picked up 15 yards, attempted to cut at the 28 yard line, but immediately dropped to the ground without being touched.
“Just a routine play really. I was returning an interception and kind of hit the turf wrong,” Brown said. “It was one of those things where I thought I would just be able to walk off and then I noticed it was kind of burning a little big longer than normal.
“The doctor came out there and looked at me and told me, ‘Your ACL is probably torn.’ I just kind of looked at him and said, ‘Don’t tell me that.’”
An MRI the next day confirmed the doctor’s early prognosis. Brown had ruptured his ACL; his season was over.
“It was one of those things where I may have been down for about two days, but you can’t get better being down on yourself. ” Brown said. “I flipped it into getting back into rehab mode and getting back for this year.”
Despite knowing his contract expired following the conclusion of 2013, Brown continued to rehab and be a prominent figure around the Giants’ organization. He was with the team week in, and week out, feeling even more pain than the burning sensation in his knee knowing his team needed him, but he couldn’t help.
When the season concluded, and the Giants missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year, Brown was free to sign with any team he wanted. His agent fielded a few calls, tested the waters, but when a decision needed to be made, Brown had no hesitation in returning to the Giants.
“At the end of the day, this is where I wanted to be,” Brown said.
With Will Hill continuing to struggle with the words, “No thanks,” the decision is one that has the Giants’ front office doing cartwheels. The troubled safety, who filled in admirably when Brown went down, is facing a six-game suspension and his career with the Giants is in question. In three seasons, Hill has faced suspensions in each. This season marks his second consecutive following a positive test for marijuana.
— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) May 29, 2014
While still early, Brown doesn’t appear to be limited and has stated he’s been a full participant in all aspects of practice. The Michigan alum is medically cleared and is moving well both in and out of breaks.
When the Giants took the field for the first on-field practices of their organized team activities, Brown was back next to Rolle taking the majority of the first-team reps. During the second practice, which was open to reporters, Brown lined up next to Rolle for all but two snaps.
“I didn’t really expect anything, but I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” Brown said. “I knew that I was going to work and wherever I fell on the depth chart is where I fell. Just keep going from there.
“Right now they have me next to ‘Trel so I’m staying next to ‘Trel.”