The Giants' crowded and competitive linebacker corps has a new member.
Keith Rivers, a former first-round draft choice who spent four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, today was acquired in a trade for an undisclosed choice in the 2012 NFL Draft, which begins in 15 days. Rivers, 6-2 and 235 pounds, is a weakside linebacker, where Michael Boley has been the starter for three seasons. The team also has second-year pros Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger.
"We're excited to have another talented player in the mix for our defensive staff to work with," general manager Jerry Reese said. "We try to create competition at every position, and Keith will definitely bring some competition to our linebacker group."
This is the Giants' first trade since Sept. 3, 2010, when they acquired quarterback Sage Rosenfels and return specialist Darius Reynaud for a fifth-round draft choice.
"I'm excited to get a fresh start and brand new beginning," Rivers said. "You can't ask for more than to be playing for the defending world champions and be in New York."
"This is an excellent opportunity for him to have a fresh start," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "Keith is versatile enough to play the outside on first and second down and he can play on third down because he runs well. And he's fast enough to rush the passer."
Rivers is excited to play behind a defensive line that includes Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Chris Canty.
"You definitely look forward to playing with guys like that," Rivers said. "When you're in coverage you know you don't have to cover that long and when you're in the run game you know if you're not making the play it's getting stopped in the backfield by one of those D-linemen."
Rivers spent the entire 2011 season on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list. He had wrist surgery in July and spent the season in rehabilitation. Rivers was eligible for practice and possible roster activation from Nov. 8 until Nov. 29, but did not practice and remained on Reserve/NFI.
"Last year was very frustrating," Rivers said. "The more and more you sit and watch, going through the games and getting that feeling you get before a game and not being able to go out there and play football really hurts. But it's all behind me and I'm excited about this new opportunity."
In his first three years with the Bengals, Rivers played in 35 games with 33 starts. He was credited with 246 tackles (135 solo), two sacks, two interceptions, seven passes defensed and a forced fumble.
Rivers played through a painful foot condition (plantar fasciitis) in 2010, when he participated in a career-high 15 games with 13 starts and finished second on the team with 95 tackles (46 solo). He also had four passes defensed and a sack. He had a career-high 14 tackles, including a five-yard sack of Seneca Wallace, at Cleveland on Oct. 3, a team-best 13 tackles at the Jets on Nov. 25 and 10 tackles vs. San Diego on Dec. 26.
Rivers joined the Bengals as the ninth overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft from USC. He started the first seven games of his rookie season before suffering a fractured jaw when he was hit by Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward on Oct. 19. Rivers was placed on injured reserve two days later. He began his pro career with a pair of 11-tackle games, on Sept. 7 at Baltimore and Sept. 14 vs. Tennessee. Rivers recorded his first career interception on Oct. 5 at Dallas, where he returned a Tony Romo pass 39 yards.
In 2009, Rivers started all 13 games in which he played. He missed three games due to a calf injury, but finished second on the team in tackles with a career-high 101 (58 solo). He twice tied the team's season high in tackles for a single game with 14 – Oct. 4 at Cleveland and Jan. 3 at the Jets. He also had 12 tackles vs. the Steelers on Sept. 27. Rivers picked up his second interception on Dec. 20 at San Diego.
Rivers is confident he will stay healthy and demonstrate the skill that made him the ninth pick in the draft.
"I've been working really hard this offseason and it's not about my past," he said. "It's about what I've been doing to prepare myself for this year and I'm really excited about it.
"I just haven't been able to stay on the field as much as I would like. Hopefully, like I said, it's a new beginning and everything is behind me and I'm ready to do it on the big stage here in New York."
Rivers starred from 2004-07 at USC, where he was named first-team All-America by Sports Illustrated and Pro Football Weekly as a senior. He played 49 games with 36 starts and finished with 240 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, six fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles and two interceptions while helping USC to a 47-5 record over his four seasons. As a senior, Rivers finished second in tackles (78) on a defense that ranked second in nation in fewest points allowed (16.0 a game) and fewest yards allowed (273.2 per game). As a freshman in 2004, he played in all 13 games for a Trojans team that won the national championship with a 55-19 rout of Oklahoma in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
Rivers earned several All-America honors at Lake Mary High School in Florida. He was named Gatorade Florida Football Player of the Year as a senior. Rivers was born on May 5, 1986 in Riverside, Calif., and lived in nearby San Bernardino for eight years before his family moved to Florida. He majored in public policy, management and planning at Southern California.