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Former CFL standout Brett Jones gets primetime chance


Former CFL standout Brett Jones is looking to make a big impact in Monday night's game vs. the Bengals

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Canadian native and former Grey Cup champion Brett Jones said Monday Night Football is a popular television show in his home country.

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"It's an excuse to hang out with the guys and do stuff," Jones said. "That's what we would do. The CFL doesn't play Sunday or Monday. Sometimes they do, but not often. Those are the NFL days. Those are the games we always watch. Thursday night's, we watch them all. You dream about playing here. When you get a chance, it's very cool."

The good citizens of Canada will have an extra incentive to watch this coming Monday, because one of their own will be starting. Jones is expected to step in for the injured Justin Pugh at left guard when the Giants host the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I just try and look at it as any other game," Jones said. "It's a big game because it's the next game. Definitely being in Canada, everyone would get excited for Sunday and Monday Night Football. Especially at university. We would go after practice and watch. It's a big game. It's just a big game because it's the next one. My teammates are riding with me. I'll go out and do the job, whatever that job is. … It's a Monday night game, so definitely excited for it."

Jones stepped in after Pugh was hurt during the second quarter of the Giants' victory last week against Philadelphia.

"I thought Jonesie did a nice job when he went in there," coach Ben McAdoo said. "He played physical. He's been playing more center for us, but was ready to go in the ballgame at guard."

Jones has one of the more interesting backgrounds among Giants players. Like most Canadian youngsters, his first love was hockey. But he eventually gravitated toward football, which he played at Weyburn Comprehensive High School in Saskatchewan, and then for four seasons for the University of Regina Rams. Jones was the 16th overall selection in the 2013 Canadian Football League draft by the Calgary Stampeders. In his first year he was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie, and in his second, the league's Most Outstanding Offensive Linemen (as a center). That season, the Stampeders were 15-3 in the regular season and won the Grey Cup, the CFL's championship game, with a 20-16 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Jones coveted an opportunity to play in the NFL, which he received when the Giants signed him on Feb. 11, 2015. But he suffered a knee injury in the preseason and missed the entire year.

When training camp opened this year, Jones was one of several linemen fighting for a job as a reserve lineman. But he made the final roster and has twice played when called upon in the heat of a game – when center Weston Richburg was ejected against Washington on Sept. 25, and again when Pugh went down.

He said he is a much better player than he was when he arrived here, and he's adjusted to having opposing defensive linemen directly in front of him. In Canada, they must play a yard off the ball.

"From the first day to now is day and night," Jones said. "Just learning the game. There is a lot of nuances to the game that you don't even realize. Just playing with one yard in Canada versus no yard here. It's definitely a lot different. I'm just working on those things every day."

On Monday, Jones will start for the first time since the Grey Cup final.

"That was one of the best games that I ever played in," said Jones, who is 6-2 and 310 pounds. "Those are some great memories that I have with those teammates. I cherish that game."

After getting to play on Monday Night Football, he could well be making that same statement early Tuesday morning.

*In addition to Pugh, wide receiver Victor Cruz (ankle) did not practice today. McAdoo said, "We'll take it day-by-day" when asked if that makes Cruz a longshot to play against the Bengals.

*Defensive end Kerry Wynn (concussion) returned to practice on a limited basis. Safety Andrew Adams (shoulder) was also limited.

*Rookie cornerback Eli Apple was replaced in the second half of the Philadelphia game by Trevin Wade. But Apple has practiced well this week.

"Honestly, I don't see anything different with Eli," McAdoo said. "He's come out, gone about his business, and been productive on the practice field."

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was asked how Apple "has responded to his benching."

"Really good, and I wouldn't call it a benching," Spagnuolo said. "As a matter of fact, he was struggling a little bit, we went over and said, 'Look, let's just take a series off and see what happens.' Then our guys just got in a groove and we just kind of left it like that, but no one has lost confidence in Eli. He is a good football player and he will bounce back."

"(He) made some mistakes that we need to eliminate through preparation." McAdoo said. "He'll bounce back."

*Last week, the Giants surrendered seven Philadelphia plays that gained 20 or more yards.

"That is a knife in my back every day, and we talk about it all the time," Spagnuolo said. "You have to keep that number under four plays, and it seems to be that when teams have explosive plays against us, they are really explosive. It is like the 58-yard touchdown and that was a combination of a lot of guys. It is not just one guy. To the naked eye, it is just one guy, but it is not, it is a lot of people. But we need to eliminate those. Why do they happen? They happen sometimes because the offense out-executes us and a couple of them happened in this particular game because of poor eyes on the back end. A lot of times it does fall on the secondary, but look, on one of those particular plays we had four one-on-ones up front and nobody won, so it is on everybody, not just one person."

Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the Bengals on Monday

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