Dan Connor got a taste of the competitive nature of the NFC East in his one season with the Dallas Cowboys. Now he'll see it from another side after signing today with the Giants, for whom he is expected to play middle linebacker.
"Being able to stay in the same division is great," said Connor, who was released by the Cowboys on Monday. "There are so many rivalries. It's a very competitive division to play in. I'm very excited to stay in it.
"(Giants-Cowboys) is a big-time rivalry. It runs deep. There are a couple of them in the NFC East. I know it's a competitive one with definitive hatred from team to team, and you don't see that much in the NFL. But it's alive in this division."
Connor is entering his sixth NFL season. A third-round draft choice from Penn State by Carolina in 2008, he played four years with the Panthers before joining Dallas last year as a free agent. Now he is looking to settle down with the Giants.
"I've had a lot of different experiences," Connor said. "I've been in a 4-3, I've been in a 3-4 before. I've played under four different coordinators in my five years. I've had a lot of opportunities to play in different systems.
"Talking to the Giants coaches, the (4-3) system seems to fit me. I wanted to get back into a 4-3 look. It's a great opportunity. When my agent called me and said they were interested I was so thrilled. This is a class organization with a lot of tradition. They're a successful team with a winning tradition and it was something I wanted to be a part of. I'm really looking forward to it."
Because he changed teams just last year, Connor is well-versed in the challenges of learning a new system and getting acclimated to new teammates and coaches.
"It's difficult," he said. "With a new system you have to learn all the verbiage and pick it up and be comfortable with it as quickly as possible. Having experience in doing that starting from scratch, having done that in the past I think will help me here pick things up quickly and feel comfortable and contribute to the team."
Connor has played both inside and outside, but he prefers to line up at middle linebacker.
"I think that's my position," Connor said. "That's the position where I'm comfortable. I played it in college, I was in the middle of a 4-3 in Carolina. So I feel most comfortable in the middle. But I do have some experience on the outside."
Connor, who is 6-2 and 241 pounds, has played in 56 career games with 27 starts. His career totals include 222 tackles (129 solo), a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Last year with Dallas, he played in 14 games with eight starts – three at weakside linebacker and the season's last five games at middle linebacker (taking over for former Penn State teammate Sean Lee). He was credited with 56 tackles (32 solo).
At Penn State, Connor set a school record with 419 career tackles in 45 games (37 starts). He also had 14.0 sacks and four interceptions. As a senior in 2007, Connor won the Bednarik Ward, which is given to the nation's top defensive player. He was a first-team All-America as a senior and second-team as a junior.
Connor's journey to the NFC East started when he was a star football player at Strath Haven High School in suburban Philadelphia. So…
"I grew up an Eagles fan," Connor said. "That's another dynamic that will make it even more interesting."