The first few months of Jameel McClain's tenure with the Giants were spent as a supporting actor in what was essentially a one-man show. It was clear from every angle that this was going to be Jon Beason's defense, from the contract he received to the way he ran and dominated the huddle. When it came to having a voice of the unit, Beason was speaking in a virtual monologue.
"I had to turn it down," McClain said of suppressing his natural leadership qualities on the field. "I definitely had to respect what Jon does and how he calls it and sit back and go through it ... When Jon's in, I'm a little more quiet. Which is unusual."
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Then something really unusual happened. Beason left the field on a cart last week with a torn ligament and a small fracture to the sesamoid in his right foot. The Giants announced on Tuesday that Beason will not need surgery, but he is still expected to miss the entirety of the preseason and maybe even the beginning of the regular season.
Now it's McClain's turn to grab the controls of the defense. The free-agent acquisition from the Ravens slid from an outside linebacker position to the inside for the start of mandatory minicamp, taking over Beason's position and trying to replace his presence. It may seem like a challenge, but McClain said it might in fact be easier than trying to keep quiet.
"When he stepped out it was me turning back into who I am," McClain said. "'This is this, this is this, watch for this, this is where we're going.' It's simple."
McClain put an immediate fingerprint on the defense when they broke the huddle for the first 11-on-11 snap of the minicamp. The defense followed his lead with a Ric Flair-inspired "Wooo!"
"Something a little sweet," McClain said. "Try to give them a little salsa. That was something I brought in, give a little flavor to some already flavorful and colorful players."
"He's definitely got the personality for it," starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said of McClain being a leader. "He comes in and he brings a lot of energy out there. You can tell that he's used to that role. For him it doesn't appear to be anything out of the norm."
Moving from the outside to the inside is something McClain did throughout his career in Baltimore. He said he won't have trouble transitioning back to outside linebacker once Beason does return, and that playing inside will actually help him grasp the defense as a whole. He also has experience calling the defenses.
McClain said that he's even used to having to swallow his words in the presence of a dominant veteran as he did here. In Baltimore, Ray Lewis was the lone voice of the defense until he retired. After that, McClain stepped in and cranked up the leadership volume.
The difference here is that Beason is still around. He's in meetings and, after his foot has been immobilized for six weeks, he'll probably be on the sideline during training camp practices. McClain said the dynamic between him and Beason won't change.
"Now I'm just in his shoes," he said. "People try to make it seem like it's something out of the ordinary for me, when in reality it's the game I've been playing."
Beason still eyes opener
The Giants were glad to have the relatively good news that Beason won't require surgery - Antrel Rolle called the disclosure "definitely uplifting" - but having Beason on the field for the opener in less than 12 weeks is still in doubt. After meeting with foot and ankle specialist Robert Anderson in Charlotte on Monday, Beason will begin rehab with having his ailing right foot immobilized for six weeks. The first three weeks will be spent in a hard cast, the next three in a walking boot. "My visit with Dr. Anderson went as well as it could have yesterday," Beason said in a statement through the Giants. "I'm happy that it was determined that I will be able to recover without surgery. My plan is to work as hard as I can during my rehab so I can be fully recovered around the start of the regular-season opener on Monday night in Detroit."