"Deon's back, Deon's back, Deon's back," Bradshaw yelled several times.
He is, indeed.
Deon Grant, who played in every game last season as a member of the Giants' productive trio of safeties, today rejoined the team. Grant participated fully in this afternoon's practice.
"In the back of my mind, yeah, I knew I'd be back here," Grant said. "I knew this is where I wanted to be. There were a lot of situations I was turning down, and I didn't make sure I stayed on the board, but I was glad I was still on the board, and the Giants gave me that phone call.
"It's great (to be back). It's home. (I'm) ready to come back and make some things happen, start the season off the right way."
Bradshaw wasn't the only Giants player excited to see Grant. It seems as though everyone who wore the blue jersey last year was glad the 12-year veteran has returned.
"That's always a great thing," said fellow safety Antrel Rolle. "I've been pushing for him to come back. I think he's a key asset to the defensive team, made a number of plays for us last year at the safety position. It would be a blessing to have him back on the field with us."
The Giants added another safety in veteran Derrick Martin, who played five games last season for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
To make room on the roster, the Giants waived safety Cary Harris and waived/injured wide receiver Sam Giguere.
Grant will again team with two-time Pro Bowler Rolle and former first-round draft choice Kenny Phillips to give the Giants a talented and experienced group of safeties. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, whom Grant said reached out to him last week, often deployed the three players on the field at the same time. No one was willing to admit if that alignment will be used again – "It's a possibility" was as far as Tom Coughlin would go - but the potential of a reprise had everyone excited.
"It was (Fewell's) mastermind of an idea," Rolle said. "We were just the ones who went out there and executed. It involved a lot of communication. It involved a lot of practice, a lot of communication and a lot of study time."
"I don't want to put it out there; we have to keep them guessing, so I don't want to be bread and butter for other teams that are going to be preparing for us," Grant said. "But I think Perry Fewell has some things in store. He's not going to have it the exact same way it was last year, make it easier for teams. He's going to have some good things, though."
No matter the numbers and personnel breakdown, Grant will provide the Giants with production, stability and big-play ability at the back of the defense.
"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 of Grant. "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."
"I think it's going to be a great fit for us," Rolle said. "A lot better than last year being that last year there was a lot of mental gymnastics going on out there. I consider myself a smart guy when it comes to football. Obviously, it wasn't easy for me. There was a lot of communication. It took a lot of study time, a lot of shifts and motions and adjustments. You always had to think on the go and you had to do a lot of thinking. It wasn't just a one-assignment technique. I think it's definitely going to be a better unit."
Grant carries some impressive credentials back into the locker room. Since missing his rookie season in Carolina with a hip injury, Grant has played in 160 consecutive games. That ties him with three other players for the eighth-longest active streak in the NFL.
When Grant first joined the Giants last year, he had started 144 games in a row, a streak he was justifiably proud of. Grant had hoped to extend the streak, but it ended when he entered the season opener against Carolina as a reserve. He still had the Giants' first takeaway of the season when he intercepted Matt Moore in the end zone on the Panthers' second possession.
"He was a professional about it," Rolle said. "I don't think it was the best situation for him. In my eyes, I definitely see him as a starter, but he knew his role coming into the season and he played the best ball that I've seen him play in a long time. Like I said, we had a (number) of players, but every time he was on the field he made something happen. That's all you can ask for."
Grant, who came to the Giants as a free agent last year, was a vital member of the 2010 defense. He played in all 16 games with eight starts and finished with 68 tackles (53 solo), three interceptions, 10 passes defensed, one sack, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and he was tied for second on the team with 13 special teams tackles.
This year, he's prepared for anything Fewell and Co. throw at him.
"Whatever my role is I'm gonna make sure I make the best out of it," Grant said. "Last year, I came in with a mindset. This year I'm just coming in to play ball and if I need to be a bigger leader in the locker room and my playtime might not be as much, or my playtime may be as much and I'm less of a leader in the locker room, whatever the case may be, I'm just coming here to do whatever it takes to win games."
In addition to his contributions on the field, Grant is a highly-respected presence in the locker room, where his boom box is always playing before and after practice.
"You have to have solid people in the locker room, something to rely on," Coughlin said, "a guy who's been there and done it and can help a lot of the younger guys."
"He's a definite leader, on and off the field," Rolle said. "He was one of the older guys in the unit. He's been around. He knows exactly what it takes to win games around here. He's a very, very smart player, extremely smart. He wouldn't only help the defensive backs, he would help the defensive line, the linebackers, anyone he could help, he would obviously help."
Grant also returns on a mission. He has played in seven postseason games, including a Super Bowl with Carolina, but has never been a champion. Grant was frustrated at the end of last season, when the Giants finished out of the playoffs despite a 10-6 record. And as he sat home in Atlanta last week, he thought the Giants were not receiving their proper due entering the new NFL year.
"I feel like I started something here last year, we started something here last year, and we didn't finish it," Grant said. "When I have something like that in my hands I like to finish, and I think this year we can finish it. And then with all the things going on in Philly right now, that's the type of team I love to face. I'm a competitive guy, so with all the additions they've made, I want to be on the other side of the ball to go against them.
"We're definitely going to make sure that it's going to be competitive situation, and we're going to be ready. … We just have to make sure we take care of New York Giants football, and we'll win games by doing that."