A year ago, John Greco this week was at home wondering if his NFL career was over. He’d been released by the Browns after training camp and was coming to peace with the possibility of involuntary retirement while waiting to see if any teams would call.
On Sunday, he’ll be starting at center for the Giants against the Texans.
“I knew I still had enough gas in the tank that I could’ve been playing and I was just happy I got the opportunity,” he said of his change of fortune in the past 11 months. “That really hasn’t entered my mind. It’s more of a laugh thing I can do at myself.”
Greco, 33, will take over the starting job from Jon Halapio, who was placed on injured reserve after fracturing his ankle and lower leg and undergoing season-ending surgery. He finished the game against the Cowboys on Sunday after Halapio’s injury and now is being thrust into a unit that has underperformed and is in need of immediate improvement.
“We know we have to play better and that’s the focus every week,” he said. “When you know things aren’t going your way you just have to do everything extra, and do everything in your power to be the cause of the wins and not the cause of losses.”
Greco had a short stint with the Saints last October and signed with the Giants last November. He was a veteran backup for the second half of a miserable season and he re-signed with the Giants in the offseason.
He and the Giants will be facing the Texans on Sunday with a defensive front that includes J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
“They have one of the most talented front sevens in the league and they rely on their pass rushers, their big guys up front to make plays and wreak havoc,” Greco said. “That’s an issue were going to see every week. There’s never going to be a week where it’s like, ‘Oh, these guys are going to go out there and lay down.’ Every team has talent, and this particular one has a lot of talent, so I think it’s an exciting opportunity.”
One that came at a cost.
“Any time you lose your partner in crime, one of your buddies in your room, you feel for him,” Greco said of Halapio. “But at the same time we just have to do everything we can this week to try to get a win . . . I’m here, I’m the starting center right now, and what transpired and what went down I have no control over."
Note & quotes: CB Eli Apple (groin) did not practice on Wednesday. “It’s very frustrating,” Apple said of missing time. “You want to stay out there and help your team as much as you can. I think I was just getting in a groove too, and a rhythm. It’s definitely unfortunate I had to come out” . . . LB Olivier Vernon (ankle) stretched with the team but did not practice. LB Connor Barwin (knee) also missed practice. PR Kaelin Clay (ankle) and TE Evan Engram (ankle) were limited . . . The Giants were awarded WR Stacy Coley on waivers from the Vikings. The second-year receiver played four games under Pat Shurmur in Minnesota last season. To make room the Giants waived FB Shane Smith before Wednesday’s practice. They signed FB Elijhaa Penny on Monday; Penny took Halapio’s roster spot.