EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Brandon Meriweather has been here for just two days, but he believes he has what it takes to uphold the proud tradition of Giants defenses.
"I'm physical," Meriweather said today. "The great defenses of the Giants have always been physical, so I'm thinking it may be a great fit."
In his previous stops in New England, Chicago and Washington, the NFL sometimes deemed that Meriweather was too physical. He has been fined and suspended for helmet-to-helmet hits, a subject that arose early in his initial meeting with reporters today.
"How did I know that was coming up?" he said. "Can we get them out the way now? Go ahead, so we can leave them alone for the rest of the year."
Because the league is so vigilant regarding safety, the plays that forced Meriweather off the field in the past will certainly not be tolerated now.
"We used to call him 'Little B,'" said linebacker Jon Beason, Meriweather's close friend and former teammate at the University of Miami. "And then as he transitioned into a starter, his nickname became 'Killer B,' because he literally would take people's heads off. So that's the type of guy you want back there in your secondary. And then, he's taken his bruises and hits over the head. Hey, you can't hit people like that anymore, and I think nine years in he realizes the target area has changed. … It is a violent game, unfortunately, and I think Brandon has learned his lesson."
Does that mean he must be less physical than he was in his first eight pro seasons?
"I think every player you ever asked will say you play your game the way you play your game," Meriweather said. "Do you play within the rules? Yes. When they make new rules, do you have to adjust a little bit? Yes. So I'm going to play my game the way I play my game, but I'm also going to respect the rules."
Tom Coughlin said he will talk with Meriweather about playing hard and tough without crossing the line set down by the NFL.
"The toughness part you want," Coughlin said. "The penalties and the issues, you don't want. And he's a young man who has expressed thanks in being here and having the opportunity, and I think he'll take coaching. He's competitive, he's very competitive. And to a certain extent, obviously, we want that, but we don't want what goes with it, obviously."
"(It's a) very fine line for a coach, very fine line for a player in the league that we play in nowadays," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "But it's all about target, and it's a low target area, a strike zone. We're talking from the chest down to the thigh. That's what guys have to begin to do. I think that a lot of aggressive players in this league have adjusted to that, I think a lot of them are doing it. And we need to. So it's preached, it's talked about, and again, we haven't had him here but for a day. But that will be a focus, and I'm sure when you're away from football for a little bit and you realize where that may have been one of the reasons. I don't know if it is or not. I'm sure he'll find a way to get it corrected."
Meriweather spent the previous two seasons in Washington, but was not re-signed. Coughlin said that was not because of the rough play and suspensions.
"He had a toe issue, which he had corrected," Coughlin said. "He's 31 years old. He certainly doesn't need to be put away to rest. He's a young guy."
"I'm older in the game now," Meriweather said. "It's all a part of taking care of your body, just like anything else. You're going to have to take care of it, and that's what it is. I'm just going to take care of my body and continue to do the things I've been doing."
The Giants are familiar with Meriweather. Last Sept. 25, he had 13 tackles (six solo) and broke up two passes in the Giants' 45-14 victory in Washington.
Now he's taking an accelerated course in Spagnuolo's defense. Meriweather took a surprisingly high number of reps in his first practice, and expects to be busy today.
"You have to forget everything that you did, and learn it all over again," he said. "When it comes to verbiage and terminology, you just pretty much forget everything that you were taught and learn whatever the new team's verbiage is."
Meriweather has a chance to play a lot right away. Three safeties – Nat Berhe, Landon Collins and Mykkele Thompson – are sidelined with injuries. The Giants need their new veteran to come in and provide production and leadership.
"He's a very physical safety (who) comes down in the box very well," Coughlin said. "He'll bring a degree of toughness to our secondary, to that position, so we welcome him."
"I feel like I'm coming to be a New York Giant," Meriweather said. "I feel like I'm coming to be an addition to the team. I feel like I'm coming to play football, and I'm coming to help us win."
That's exactly what the Giants expect of him.
Photos from Monday's Giants Training Camp practice