By Adam Biggers
It wasn't draft day when Greg Jones finally realized he was in the NFL. It wasn't the day he signed his first pro contract, either.
No, Jones, who was an All-American linebacker at Michigan State, says his first "I'm here" moment came when he first stepped on the field with the New York Giants during a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
"I was just so excited to be out there," Jones said. "I just wanted to take advantage of that moment that I had."
Getting acclimated to the most elite level of football wasn't easy for Jones. Then again, it was probably difficult for most rookies, considering the NFL had a labor dispute that held up player meetings and didn't allow for contact with teams.
"My rookie year was definitely a learning process," Jones said. "I do wish I could have come in during OTAs and learn my defense, better understand my coaches. I was behind the eight ball a little bit the first four or five games."
The learning curve, however, was one that Jones would overcome. Although his Giants lost their season-opener 28-14 to the Washington Redskins, Jones finished with four tackles. During Week 4's 31-27 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Jones turned in a season-high six tackles (three solo, three assisted).
The desire to constantly improve fuels Jones, who was known as a "high-motor" player while at Michigan State. He ended the season with 31 tackles after a respectable showing on the Giants' special teams unit.
Jones added seven more tackles in the preseason, including three in the Giants' 20-17 NFC Championship Game victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
"Every time I'm out there, I believe in myself. I believe in my teammates. I believe we can win. It's constant excitement. I'm just happy to be out there," Jones said.
The Giants' run to a Super Bowl XLVI title put the stamp on a productive rookie season. However, getting there was a test for Jones and his teammates. The Giants didn't run away with an NFC East title and struggled just to make the playoffs, finishing the regular season at 9-7.
But the Giants bonded behind the play of quarterback Eli Manning. And the rest took care of itself.
"We got tired of losing," Jones said with a laugh. "I think the New Orleans game (a 49-24 loss) was a wake-up call for us. The next game, we played Green Bay (then 11-0) and almost beat them (lost 38-35).
"Everyone was like 'Man, we were right there.' We just started to buy in, next think you know, we were in the playoffs. We never got too far ahead of ourselves. We took the time to prepare for the team we were up against and gave our best effort."
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