Jon Beason passed his first test.
When the whistle blew and the defense was called to the field early in Monday's practice, Beason won what usually is a daily footrace with coordinator Perry Fewell to reach the football.
Yes, come Monday night, he'll have to do better than outrun a 51-year-old coach. But for Beason, who spent the entire preseason on the physically unable to perform list with a toe injury he suffered in the spring, being on the field for the first time this year meant everything was a competition. And everything was fun.
"I feel pretty good," he said after the brief workout. "Just happy to be back out there. It feels good to get my feet wet again."
The Giants were happy to have him.
"That's the middle man," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said excitedly. "He's got to get us all our calls, man. Without a middle linebacker, we got nothing . . . We need him. Everybody knows we need him, and that's a good thing. He's out there. A lot of guys were hyped up that he was out there.''
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said the players were "messing with" Beason when he first came into the huddle. "Who's the new guy?" Jenkins said they were asking. "We gave him a hard time. But we were glad to have him."
Beason was a presence throughout training camp, watching each practice from the sideline with coaches and participating in meetings and video study. But for him to add his greatest asset to this defense -- his intangibles as a leader -- he knew he had to be on the field.
"You can't lead if you're not in the fire with guys," Beason said. "How can I tell you what to do when I'm over here hanging out, drinking Gatorade with a hat on? I'm just happy I can be out there with the guys working toward our goal to get better."
As for how much Beason will play Monday, it remains to be seen. The Giants have depth at the position that they have lacked in recent years. Jameel McClain stepped in for Beason in the middle throughout the summer and probably will be a starter on the outside. Jacquian Williams has looked strong on the outside and rookie Devon Kennard spent time with the starters in training camp. All of which means Beason can focus on the quality and not the quantity of his snaps against the Lions.
"You want to give the maximum amount on every single play," he said. "You give everything you can, and if you can't, go 'Hey Coach, I've got to get out of the game.' I feel great about the guys that we have in our room, the rotation that we can have, so knowing that I have that in my back pocket, I just want to go out and give everything, and if I can't, hey, get me outta there."