New York Giants inside linebacker Darrian Beavers at training camp on...

New York Giants inside linebacker Darrian Beavers at training camp on Monday. Credit: James Escher

The story spills down his right arm.

There is a red cardinal that represents his mascot at Colerain High School in southwest Ohio. A howling husky is from his days at UConn. A bearcat is poised to pounce because he later played at the University of Cincinnati. And there is a football player, shown from the back, an NFL shield on his jersey, his name spelled out across the shoulders, facing all of them.

“It’s me looking back on my journey,” Darrian Beavers told Newsday on Monday, decoding the intricate sleeve tattoo like a safari guide pointing out and explaining the habits of the various animals.

It’s an important journey that is a permanent part of him, both on his skin and in his soul. But it’s also one of the rare ways Beavers allows himself to reflect on the past.

Everything else about him is looking forward.

And Tuesday is the day the linebacker has been gazing toward for nearly an entire year.

That’s when the Giants will have their first practice in full pads, when the players finally will be allowed to hit each other for real — and when Beavers believes he will be able to say he is fully, officially, unequivocally back.

“I’m trying to be the most confident person out there,” he said, “but there are some things I have to see from myself, too. I’m really eager to be out there.”

It will be the first time Beavers gets to tackle anybody since he made a rather routine stop in the third quarter of a preseason game against the Bengals last summer, only to have his right leg get caught underneath the action, leaving him with an ACL tear.

At the time, he was a rookie, a sixth-round draft pick making impressive noise throughout training camp and emerging as a potential starter. All of that potential was carted off the field with him, though.

Then last week, the Giants returned to training camp and Beavers was back with them. He’s since been splitting reps as one of the starting inside linebackers, along with fellow second-year player Micah McFadden. Although he has been limited to a certain number of reps each day, a precaution common for players coming back from serious injuries, he’s been able to plant and cut and do most of the things he used to do without worrying about his knee, he said.

The one last feat he needs to accomplish is the one intrinsic to his position. He has to tackle someone.

Tuesday will offer a chance to complete the circle.

Beavers has been just as impressive this camp. A former wide receiver and safety, he has the speed to fly around the field but also the 246-pound frame to make ballcarriers know when he has arrived.

“He’s a big, athletic guy that’s very physical and can run,” linebacker Bobby Okereke said. “He’s got smooth hips. He’s a really good athlete.”

There still are things for him to learn, though. Things he didn’t get an opportunity to pick up on last season.

“It’s not his first year because he knows how we run things, our program,” Brian Daboll said. “But he’s still a young player, still has a ways to go.  He’s done a good job since he’s been out here [this summer], fighting through that rehab and now getting an opportunity, he’s done some nice things.”

Then Daboll paused briefly.

“We’ll see when we get going here,” he added, a nod to the padded practices.

Beavers isn’t the only one ready for the actual football to start.

Safety Xavier McKinney described Beavers as looking “hungry” earlier in camp. Beavers upped the adjective.

“Last year I was hungry,” Beavers said. “This year, after what happened, I’m even hungrier .  .  . I just want to go out there and prove to everybody who I am.”

Who is that, exactly?

He’s not a rookie, but he’s never played an actual game, either. He’s not an unknown trying to earn a roster spot, but he has a somewhat disposable pedigree as a sixth-round pick who played at two non-Power 5 schools. His absence cast a phantom’s shadow over a position that cycled through six different starters last year and was the most inconsistent on defense, but there is no guarantee he will be up to the hype he created in the short period of time before he suffered his injury.

Who is he?

Even Beavers is curious to find out for sure.

“I just have a lot to prove,” he said. “I haven’t done anything in the league right now. I went through last year’s training camp, did pretty good there, but then didn’t play any games. This year I’m trying to come back from a major injury, trying to come back after not playing football after a year, and trying to pick up where I left off or be even better than I was last year. I know that takes time. But when the pads come on, that’s when you can see and you can separate from others.”

Separate from one’s past, too. Move on from it.

It will always be there, certainly, both in the ink that decorates Beavers’ arm and on the beginnings of the resume he is building in the league. There were “highs and lows” for him, he said, describing his rehab, but also the path that brought him here.

Here to the Giants, to a potential starting job and, as was his focus on Monday, to this upcoming practice.

“Hitting somebody, tackling somebody, it’s a lot different,” Beavers said of his anticipation for the contact. “This last week was just introducing us. [Tuesday] is the real start to camp.”
Perhaps, also, a restart of his career.


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