After nine years, veteran wasn’t done with the game when Cleveland cut him this season
When the Cleveland Browns cut John Greco at the end of the preseason no one would have batted an eye if the veteran offensive lineman had called it a career. He had played nine years for the Browns and St. Louis Rams, starting 70 of the 111 games he had played in.
No matter what, Greco had had a good NFL career.
Still, he felt like he didn’t have football out of his system yet. Greco’s 2016 season had ended after 12 games because of a Lisfranc injury. He didn’t want to have his career end that way, so he did what he had to do to get ready for training camp with the Browns.
“I was like, let me see where training camp goes, let me see where this thing (his foot) is at. I played a long time and I was like if my foot’s not feeling right I’m not going to force it. With that being said, I played through the preseason, felt like I was playing well, felt good, I felt healthy. Cleveland decided to go a different route,” Greco said in the Giants’ locker room on Thursday.
“I was back home and I was like, man, I went through all that work and I feel good, so I was like I want to still prove to myself that I can play. For whatever reasons I was home for a few weeks, got an opportunity to catch on a team. Ultimately, through those various steps and things that happened I’m here. I’m just happy to be on a team. I did miss it, I love the everyday environment in the NFL.”
Greco worked out for the Giants shortly after being cut by the Browns, but was not signed. In early October, he hooked on with the New Orleans Saints. He was there for a month, never got into a game and was cut last week. The Giants, in need of veteran offensive line depth with Weston Richburg on IR and Justin Pugh hurting with a back injury, signed him this week.
Earlier in the week there was some thought that the Giants might have to rush Greco into immediate action. Starting right guard D.J. Fluker left last week’s game with an ankle injury, but he is no longer on the injury report and appears set to play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Greco admitted that it would be difficult to step into the lineup less than a week after being signed.
“It depends on the definition of right away. If it was signed on Wednesday played on Sunday I think it would be a little bit difficult. At the same time, no one cares. They don’t care what the situation is, they just worry about your output on Sunday,” he said. “I’ve played long enough and in a variety of different offenses that it’s just understanding the different language and terminology. That’s kinda where I’m at right now, I’m picking up the fine-tuned things and what we call things.”
A week ago, the Giants signed veteran linebacker Kelvin Sheppard off the street. Due to injury, he was thrust into the lineup right away despite not having played this season. He suffered a groin injury part-way through his first game and is doubtful Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Having not played all season it is fair to wonder how many snaps Greco could handle right away. He said this week that he could “absolutely” play an entire game.
“That’s the thing, I don’t have that luxury to say, OK, let’s work through the preseason, let’s work through Week 1,” he said. “I don’t have that luxury, but when you’re playing in a backup role unless you’re a starter when you’re playing in a backup role you have to be ready at any time, anyway. No one cares about that, you can’t use that excuse. I’ve done that early in my career and I’m ready to do that any time now - if the team needs me at any position I’m ready.”
As all Giants fans know, the team is going through an unexpectedly difficult season at 1-8. The effort of some players has been questioned in recent weeks. Greco played on a lot of bad teams in St. Louis and Cleveland, and said that despite the losing professional players should be able to prepare themselves to play.
“I don’t think it’s very difficult. It’s a different situation here because they, the Giants had success, a playoff team, and then for whatever reason aren’t having as successful a year as we planned this year. With that being said I think guys know that this is our job. If you show signs of, whatever it is, if you’re not playing hard you’re not going to be around very long yourself,” Greco said. “I think guys know that, and we still go out and play for each other. Shoot, there’s still a lot of games left. We can go out and rip off a couple wins in a row and turn this thing around. That way heading into the offseason you kind of finish on a good note and you can say hey, let’s build on that for next season.”