Keith Rivers, Aaron Curry have much to prove for themselves, and for Giants
Bob GlauberBob Glauber
Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He
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They share a bond through their personal history, although not the kind of experience they were hoping for as star linebackers coming into the NFL. No, the career path that Keith Rivers and Aaron Curry were counting on never would have brought them together like this -- fighting for spots with the Giants.
But here they are: Rivers, the ninth overall pick of the 2008 draft, and Curry, the fourth overall choice a year later. Both of them 27 years old. Both sharing the same locker room. Both battling for the same position.
On a team with a rich history of linebacker greats such as Lawrence Taylor, Sam Huff and Carl Banks, Rivers and Curry come to the franchise with big names and much to prove after ill-fated runs with the teams that once looked to them with such promise.
"We have a similar background as far as our pedigree in football, so we get along and can talk about our past experience that unites us,'' Rivers said Thursday.
As a measure of just how close the two have become in the short time since Curry signed a one-year deal with the Giants, they even conducted an interview together just before heading to the practice field. Rivers, who started six games last year for the Giants after being traded from the Bengals, is back on a one-year deal. And Curry, the Seahawks' first-round pick in 2009, signed a one-year contract in May.
Two players once considered can't-miss prospects, both of whom signed multimillion-dollar deals as rookies, now play for the veteran minimum and try to prove they still belong in the NFL at strong-side linebacker.
That's where Banks, the last linebacker drafted by the Giants in the first round, honed his craft during the 1980s and '90s. And it's where Michael Boley, who helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVII two years ago, did his best work before being released in the offseason.
"Keith and I, we've talked about our situation, and how they've shaped us, and how this is a breath of fresh air being with a great organization,'' said Curry, a former star at Wake Forest.
Such perspective hasn't always come so easily for Curry, who admitted as much upon first signing with the Giants.
"I was just selfish and self-centered,'' he said of his years with the Seahawks. "I was more about me than I was the Seahawks at the time. I was more focused on my own desires versus the franchise and the team. It was immaturity, and I'm glad I got past that stage.''
Curry signed a six-year, $60-million deal with the Seahawks, including $34 million in guaranteed salary. He now is playing on a one-year deal for $780,000.
The Raiders released him last November after injuries kept him on the bench for all but two games.
Rivers, who is playing on a one-year, $800,000 contract, came into the league with the Bengals and played four seasons before being traded to the Giants. He made only modest contributions last season because of injuries, which also limited him in Cincinnati. He now is the starter, one spot before Curry. But while the competition is fierce, the two men work together well.
"We help each other all the time to try and get better,'' Curry said.
And there is no looking back with regret -- or revenge -- for either man. Rivers said his time with Cincinnati ended "amicably'' and Curry harbors no ill will toward the Seahawks and Raiders. They're simply looking at what's ahead, with both players getting ready for their first preseason action Saturday night against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
"I had a great experience in Oakland, and I really have nothing against Seattle at all,'' Curry said.
So he said there's no temptation to show Seattle or Oakland what they're missing after dealing him away.
"For my part, it would be very selfish and self-centered if I did that,'' he said. "If I was playing for the Giants only to prove the Raiders and Seahawks wrong, I'd be of no use to this team. I have to focus on what's being asked of me by the Giants and give them everything I've got.''
Not even just a hint of revenge if the Giants wound up playing against the Seahawks in the playoffs? "I would treat them like I'm playing in this first game against the Steelers,'' he said.
Perspective well learned after the failures of his early NFL years. Same as Rivers.
"The decision to leave was mutual, so it's not a situation where I'm mad,'' Rivers said. "I'm here now to help the Giants. It's really all that matters.''