Jon Beason was very excited to be on the field for his Giants debut on Thursday night. Maybe a little bit too excited.
It got to the point that Beason was making calls in the huddle and checks at the line of scrimmage, even though that wasn't his job. Spencer Paysinger was the linebacker who wore the helmet with the radio connected to the sideline.
Paysinger said the first few series were "sporadic" and "jittery." He was trying to communicate between the coaches and the players and having to shout over Beason.
"I sat him down and said, 'Listen, I know the calls, I know the checks, let me give them and you can reiterate whatever I'm saying,' " Paysinger said he told Beason. "From then on, we really hit our stride with communication. Just a learning process."
In a season that has had few bright spots, there were a few against the Bears. One of them was the play of Beason less than a week into his tenure with the team. He led the defense with 12 tackles, making the kind of sideline-to-sideline plays that a middle linebacker in a Giants uniform hasn't made in several years.
"He's going to help us," an impressed Tom Coughlin said.
Beason wasn't perfect. He missed a few tackles and was out of position a couple of times. But it was a clear improvement over what the Giants have had at the position.
Dan Conner was the starter before landing on injured reserve. Mark Herzlich had been the depth-chart starter and Paysinger had been filling in.
Those guys were linebackers who just happen to play in the middle. But Beason?
"He's a middle linebacker," Paysinger said. "That's what he is, that's what he gets paid to do . . . That type of stuff is innate. It's in you. When you get in there and you get in between those tackles, that's what those types of players live for."
Beason looks the part, too. He's a big, thick player with piercing Mike Singletary eyes that seem as if they can stare down a running back for a loss.
He came to the Giants as damaged goods, coming off microfracture knee surgery last year and an Achilles injury in 2011. He'd lost his starting job in Carolina to Chase Blackburn, a former Giant who signed there this offseason.
"Sometimes perception is not necessarily reality," Beason said. "They made it a story down there, but for me, I'm very confident in who I am. I know what I can do, I know what I've done and you can always bank on that."
The Giants are notoriously stingy with linebackers and haven't picked one in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984. But Beason is the fourth former first-round pick the Giants have picked up off the linebacker scrap heap in recent years. Keith Bulluck gave them decent production, Keith Rivers has become a starter but not a standout, and Aaron Curry did not make the team in training camp.
If Beason can continue to play the way he did in Chicago, the Giants finally might hit the lottery in terms of their strategy. All you need is a seventh-round pick and a dream.
Beason played almost the entire game for the Giants.
"I felt like I played hard and the plays that I was dreaming about, making this play or making this great interception, I was close but I didn't get it," Beason said, pointing to a near-interception on a pass to Martellus Bennett in the fourth quarter of the Bears game. "But the fact that I knew it was coming, the anticipation was there. That's how you play the game. When you're a veteran player, you sit and you know when you can make an impact or a splash play or a game-changing play. I had a chance and that's something that's going to eat at me, but that's how I am. I want to be perfect."
He also might be able to help other young linebackers such as Paysinger, who is in his third season.
Paysinger said he wasn't threatened when the Giants traded for Beason and that he embraced it. He even gave Beason his number 52 jersey, a sign of respect. Eventually, too, Paysinger will give Beason ownership of the defensive huddle.
"I told him, 'Now, in the coming weeks, when you get more comfortable calling the calls, then I'll step back and let you be the middle linebacker, let you be the leader,' " Paysinger said of giving up the radio helmet. "We both talked about how we felt like we both grew in that game. I'm excited to see how me and him play with each other and react with each other in these coming weeks."