Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was talking to Stevie Brown about his ability to return interceptions. An offseason addition to the Giants' secondary, Rodgers-Cromartie wanted his new teammate to know that he may be known as a speed player, but he can flash some moves, too.
"He was like, 'Wait until I get a pick! I'll show you some things!' " Brown told Newsday, recalling the conversation the two proud, brash and boastful defensive backs had between snaps during practice this past week in training camp. "But I was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to stay in a straight line and just go down.' "
That's because the last time Brown tried to return an interception and gain a few extra yards, he tore the ACL in his left knee. It was last year in the third preseason game against the Jets, late in the first quarter, and Brown picked off a high pass over the middle from rookie quarterback Geno Smith. He brought it back 22 yards into Jets territory, made a cut -- and that was that.
Now, about 11 months removed from that disappointing night, a new season is about to begin. And Brown will be back on the field for it.
He is expected to start at safety for the Giants in tonight's Hall of Fame Game against the Buffalo Bills. And although most of the attention will be paid to how the "broken" offense has been fixed, the more impressive renovation may be to Brown's knee.
It's hardly a miracle of modern science for a player to return from ACL reconstruction the following year, but Brown has shown no outward or inward signs that he was ever hurt.
A brace? "No," he said. "I never wanted to get reliant on the brace so I never wore one."
Limited reps? "I don't want to be on a pitch count," he grumbled.
Swelling? Pain? Lack of confidence in the knee holding up?
"Not at all," Brown said. "None of that . . . I just look at it like I missed a year, that's all it is."
The Giants usually are cautious with players returning from knee surgery, but they seem more relaxed with Brown. Perhaps it is because he spent almost the entire rehabilitation process under their supervision. The surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida, but the rehab was based in the Giants' training facility.
"With me being around all the time with all the coaches and all the trainers, everybody got to see my progress and how well I was coming along," Brown said. "Everybody knows exactly where I'm at. They can get a sense so if it doesn't seem like I need to come out [of a practice] or anything, they'll just let it go."
So far they have.
"He worked really hard," Tom Coughlin said. "The work is obviously paying off."
The next step is getting Brown back into games, which will take place on Sunday night. In his last active season for the Giants, 2012, Brown tied for second in the NFL with eight interceptions, and he had one last preseason -- the one that resulted in the injury. So the chances are pretty good that he'll get another one in the coming weeks, whether it's Sunday night against the Bills, later in the preseason or once the regular season starts.
At that point, at the split second between the time he secures the ball and the time he starts to advance it down the field, the injury will run through his mind. Remember that conversation with Rodgers-Cromartie about just going down?
"I was just kind of joking," he said. "I don't think I'll be too cautious if I get to return a pick.
"I gotta be me."