Tony Jefferson came off the field from his first practice with the Giants on Thursday and was asked if he might know the team’s defensive playbook better than some of his new teammates who had been studying it since April when new coordinator Wink Martindale began the installation.
“That’s a true statement right there,” he said with no hint of absurdity or irony.
It’s one of the reasons why the 30-year-old safety signed on with the Giants as a practice squad player this week. Yes, he wanted the opportunity to play, and with the Giants’ depth in the secondary he may get that fairly soon. He also said he was honored to play for an organization rich in history as the Giants are. But the chance to be reunited with Martindale, who coached him from 2017 to 2019 when they were both in Baltimore, and again at the end of last season when Jefferson returned to the Ravens for a few weeks at the end of the year?
“That’s a really big part of it,” Jefferson said.
“It’s pretty much the same defense I was running in Baltimore,” Jefferson said. “Everything is pretty fluent for me. It’s pretty good to feel that when you are in the film room. It’s the same words, same language. It makes it easy for me to go out there and play fast.”
Getting new players who join the team at this point in the season up to speed can be a challenge. Not the case this time.
“I can help some of the younger guys,” he said. “They just brought in some new faces so I know if they need anything they can lean on me as well.”
The way the practice squad works these days with gameday callups, having that designation isn’t as isolating as it used to be. There is a pretty clear path for Jefferson to be with the Giants in games soon, perhaps as quickly as Week 1 against the Titans. He still has to earn that with his performance, but at least he knows what he has to do to achieve it.
“The opportunity, knowing the defense, can help me get on the field,” he said. “But at the same time I have to go out and perform and prove to the staff and the organization that I can do it and do it at a high level… If I get the opportunity I don’t care too much about the title [as a practice squadder]. I just want to go out and play football.”