Giants linebacker Dan Connor won't tweak Cowboys
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All of the ingredients are there. A new perspective on an old rivalry. A visit to a team that didn't want him anymore. A chance to return to what used to be a home stadium, possibly with a starting job.
It should be enough to work any football player into a froth-mouthed frenzy. But not Dan Connor. The former Cowboy will face his former team with the Giants on Sept. 8, perhaps as the starting middle linebacker, and his pulse barely quickens over the thought.
"I wish I could give you something better," he chuckled to a small group of reporters trying without success to elicit even a syllable of vengeance to further stoke the tensions between the Giants and Cowboys. "It's one of those things, noting but good relationships there. It's not like I'm going in angry."
The Giants have had several Cowboys castoffs in recent years, from Chris Canty to Martellus Bennett. When those two teams were scheduled to open the regular season a year ago, Bennett made sure everybody knew he was out to make a statement against his old employers.
"I just want to kick those guys' (butts)," Bennett memorably noted on the first day of 2012's training camp. "I've kind of got some ill feelings toward them overall."
Connor, though, has chosen a different approach, one with more tact.
"I have a ton of respect for Dallas," the linebacker said. "Jason Garrett is one of those guys I respect as much as anybody on the planet. He's a top-notch coach and it was tough how my situation didn't go that great there and I had to leave.
"As far as Dallas, I love it down there. Great people, great coaching staff, and I got close with my teammates."
After four years with the Panthers, Connor signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys last summer, but the team released him this offseason. He signed with the Giants because he wanted to be closer to his home in the Philadelphia area -- his wife is pregnant with their first child and due in late September -- and because he thought he would be a better fit in New York's 4-3 scheme.
Now, of course, the Cowboys have switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and the Giants are experimenting with more 3-4 looks.
Even with that irony working against him, Connor is fighting for playing time and could be the Giants' starter. He's competing against Mark Herzlich for the job and has been taking some first-team reps while practicing mostly with the second unit although there is no clear-cut winner yet.
"Both players are outstanding players in my opinion, and both bring different things to the table for us," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "We'll work both combinations . . . I like the combination of both those guys in our defense."
Tom Coughlin also suggested that the Giants may not have true "starting" linebackers but different personnel for different schemes.
"If it works out to where we can clearly identify something they do in a superior fashion to the others, be it a specific situation, or overall, I'd be OK with it," he said.
For Connor, though, the status of starting elicits about as little passion as the prospect of facing the Cowboys.
"For me it's a non-issue," he said. "It's whoever's in there, whoever can get the job done is the guy . . . As far as I'm concerned it's really not a pride thing at all. This is my sixth year. I'm happy to be employed and I'm going to work at whatever I do."
And when it comes to facing the Cowboys in the opener, Connor may have more regret than revenge on his mind.
"I can play and perform better [than last year] and I wish I would have, looking back," he said. "You wish every situation would have worked out better. Obviously you don't want to leave a team, but this is a good opportunity. This worked out nicely for me, it's a good situation, it's a comfortable situation. It's the most comfortable I've been since I've been in the NFL. That's pretty much the point I'm at right now."