Hall of Famer Harry Carson approached B.J. Goodson this past week. He wanted to check in on the Giants’ new starting middle linebacker, who recorded an astounding 18 tackles against the Cowboys in his debut Sept. 10.
“He just wanted to make sure my head was where it needed to be,” Goodson said of the interaction.
With Goodson, that should be the least of anyone’s worries. He’s a complete throwback both in position and disposition.
The Giants have not had an every-down middle linebacker who could control the defense from sideline to sideline since Antonio Pierce retired, and Goodson seems to be filling that role on the field. It’s the way he goes about his business, though, that is perhaps most anachronistic.
This is a 24-year-old who keeps his cellphone on airplane mode virtually all day long so he can avoid the distractions and perils of being a modern-day pro athlete.
“I really don’t care or hear about the outside noise,” Goodson said. “I keep life simple. There’s nothing nobody can tell me that I need as far as getting ready for work . . . There’s really no reason for me to be on social media or on my phone texting this person and that person. The only thing I use it for is my music. That’s pretty much it.”
Goodson, who is listed as questionable for Monday night’s game because of a shin injury that began to bug him late last week, already had been an impressive player for the Giants this summer. After spending all of last season as a special- teams player, the second-year linebacker was given first dibs at the starting middle linebacker job when players arrived for offseason workouts in April. He has taken advantage of it and was a leader throughout training camp and the preseason. But it took the 18-tackle performance to really open eyes as to what he is and what he can be for the Giants.
“I told him coming into this offseason that I wasn’t a full believer in B.J. Goodson,” All-Pro defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. “He made me a believer. I’m a 1,000-percent believer in B.J. Goodson.”
“He’s only going to get better,” Pro Bowl cornerback Janoris Jenkins said. “It’s all about getting game reps and seeing it over and over and over again. I feel like if he continues to work how he works and continues to see the plays and understand the defense, he can be special.”
Carson, who does some broadcasting for the Giants these days, said he has taken a special interest in Goodson, and not just because they play the same position with what appears to be the same mindset. Goodson grew up in Lamar, South Carolina, which is less than a half-hour’s drive from Florence, South Carolina, where Carson grew up.
“Even though I had never met him until last year, I’m very happy that the Giants selected him,” Carson said. “We’ve had an opportunity to talk a couple of times and I think that he’ll do some really good things for the team.”
And that first in-game impression?
“As a second-year player and going against probably the most dominant offensive line in the NFL, to come away with 14 solos and 18 tackles, that’s a lot of production,” Carson said. “That might be an area of the defense that they don’t really have to worry about anymore. For the longest time, they did not have an impact inside or middle linebacker. I think he can really fill the bill to be that kind of player.”
Goodson could be the next link in the chain of great Giants linebackers that goes back to Sam Huff, includes Carson and Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor, and continued with Jessie Armstead and Pierce. He’s met and spoken with almost all of them during his brief tenure with the team, but his potential place in that genealogy goes mostly unspoken.
“They don’t have to talk about it,” Goodson said. “Their presence is felt. We know that as of right now, we represent what they stood for and still stand for. Nothing needs to be said.”
That seems to suit Goodson just fine.