EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Deon Grant could have signed with a couple of other NFL teams after free agency started and probably landed a job where he might have had a shot at starting.
The veteran safety turned them down, though, and waited almost three weeks for the New York Giants to call.
It wasn't a wait in vain. Grant took the call Monday, and by Tuesday, the 32-year-old was back on the field practicing with the Giants.
The only thing that has changed -- for now -- is Grant's number. His No. 34 has been replaced by 30, although he expects to have his old number back by Monday night when the Giants face the Chicago Bears at New Meadowlands Stadium in a nationally televised game.
"I felt like I started something here last year and we started something here last year that we didn't finish," Grant said Tuesday. "I have something like that in my hands, I like to finish it. And with all the things going on in Philly right now, that is the team I love to face. I am a competitive guy, so with them and all the additions that they made, I wanted to be on the other side of the ball going against them."
The Giants probably should have won the NFC East last season. They seemingly had the Eagles beat in a December game that would have given them command in the division but gave up 28 points in the final 7½ minutes in a stunning 38-31 loss. The rally was led by Michael Vick, and capped by a game-ending, 65-yard punt return for a touchdown by DeSean Jackson.
Philadelphia went on to win the division and lost in the first round of the playoffs. But the Eagles seemingly have gotten even better by making a big splash in the free-agent market. While the Giants went relatively quiet, the Eagles signed Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin, quarterback Vince Young, running back Ronnie Brown, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and former New York wide receiver Steve Smith.
"We just have to make sure that we do what we do," said Grant, who had 68 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and three recoveries in his first season with the Giants. "We have to worry about us. We can't worry about what's going on in Philly, New England, the Jets, nowhere else. You just have to make sure that we take care of New York Giants football. We will win games by doing that."
Grant believed he would return to the Giants all along, but he knew the team planned to start Rolle and Phillips this year, so his role was somewhat of a question mark. When he signed last year, Phillips was coming off major knee surgery, and the Giants weren't sure how well he would hold up. Grant was the insurance policy for Phillips and ended up starting eight games.
Grant either played near the line of scrimmage in those three-safety formations or covered the tight end.
"This year, I am just coming in to play ball," Grant said. "If I need to be a bigger leader in the locker room and my playing time may not be as much, or my playing time will be as much and I am less of a leader, whatever the case may be. I am just coming in here to do what it takes to win games."
"We have to keep them guessing," Grant said. "I think Perry Fewell has some things in store. He is not going to have things exactly the same as last year and make it easy for teams."
"He's a veteran safety who's always been a guy that you can rely on for knowing everybody's assignments and being able to really understand the game," Coughlin said. "He's very smart. He's played a long time. He's just a good, good, solid football player that we know will help us back there."
Grant said being back with his 'family' was great, although the locker room felt a little dead without his music blaring.
"We lost some guys that I had a great relationship with," he said. "But we still have most of them here, and they welcomed me back with open arms."
Notes:Giants LB Michael Boley missed practice Tuesday with an undisclosed back problem, and DE Jason Pierre-Paul had his back tighten up during practice. Pierre-Paul had an ice pack applied to his back, and he didn't participate for roughly the final 30 minutes. ... WR/KR Darius Reynaud pulled his right hamstring in the workout. ... Also missing practice Tuesday were LB Clint Sintim (knee), QB Sage Rosenfels (strep throat), K Lawrence Tynes (thigh) and DBs Jarrard Tarrant (shoulder) and Woodny Turenne (calf). ... WR Domenik Hixon, who had major knee surgery last year, was given the day off to rest his knee. ... The Giants also made some roster moves. They signed safety Derrick Martin, who played five games last season for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, and kicker Rhys Lloyd. To make room for those players, the team waived safety Cary Harris, CB Woodny Turenne and WR Sam Giguere. Turenne had been hampered by a calf injury, and Giguere had been bothered by a groin problem.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press