The NFL season opened last night in the Meadowlands, and Deon Grant didn’t like what he saw from his sofa as the Dallas Cowboys quarterback picked apart the New York Giants secondary.
“Watching and seeing Tony Romo sitting back there as comfortable as he was, yes it bothered me,” said Grant, who nine months ago played safety when the Giants stuffed Romo and the Cowboys in the regular season finale to ignite a Super Bowl run.
That Grant, a former Josey star, was watching his fellow Super Bowl champion teammates playing from his living room in Atlanta instead of his position at safety is a little surprising. After 13 seasons in the NFL, Grant could have been playing for someone this week, but he held out hope that the Giants would re-sign him before the season started as they did a year ago.
His single-minded desire to return to New York dissuaded other suitors.
“I know for a fact I could be playing right now – it’s where I want to play,” Grant said. “There’s only a few teams where I want to play. There’s certain teams where I’m not going to play. But I could be playing right now.”
The Giants would seem to be the natural choice considering it starts the season with a secondary generally described as “a mess.” Yielding 307 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 24-17 loss to the Cowboys supported that notion.
“I’m definitely surprised it’s been handled the way it’s been because of the relationship that we have,” Grant said. “What the guys in the locker room and the people understand is the value that I bring to a team other than just skills on the football field. There was a certain chemistry we had and a certain type of energy. We’ve been grooving and doing what we had to do and turning it up when we need to when I was there. I don’t understand why you don’t want to continue to have that unless you feel I can’t produce or you feel like I can’t play no more. They know and I know that’s not the case right now.”
At age 33, Grant feels better and stronger than he has in five years. Playing 186 consecutive games in the NFL takes a toll on a body, but for the first time in four years Grant ended the season without any major injuries to rehabilitate.
“Amazing,” Grant said of how he feels. “Last year was the most extended season I’ve had in a decade and it’s the first season that I finished with no injuries, no surgeries, no nothing. So I was able to get back on my regular schedule I had back in the day.”
To keep himself fit and ready, Grant gets up every day and does boxing workouts with a former middleweight champion. He keeps agile training on the basketball court with former NBA players. He also does his hill workouts and football drills in his own version of two-a-days.
“I’m not trippin’,” he said of his unsigned free-agent situation. “I just let them know when you need me on your team, I’ll be ready. That’s all I can promise them. I’ll be ready and not be a distraction to any team. Never have been and never will be. I try to be a positive impact to any team I go to.”
His first choice remains the Giants, and judging from Wednesday night they could use the help. Grant received text messages – with some frustrated cursing – from one of the Giants after the game as they dissected what went wrong from Grant’s perspective.
“The type of things I saw was no disruption,” Grant said. “(Romo) started out slow but once he got his groove and sought out the weakness, he really exploited it. That was something that was hard for him to do (before). He made great plays over the years, but it was our hiccups that he capitalized on. But he found a weakness and capitalized on it and continued to go to it. He was never that comfortable in doing that as easily as he did it last night.”
The Giants may be more interested in pursuing a cover corner, but Grant’s versatility and locker room leadership are elements that still make him an attractive option.
He is confident somebody will call before the season is over.
“I’d say 100 percent, yes,” he said. “It’s really going to boil down to what teams are in need and what teams want me when they figure out what they really have when they go into the season. I’m a realist. I understand the whole money thing. I’ve been in the league 13 years. I’ve been fortunate enough to get the big contracts over the course of my career and saved pretty well.”
If the right opportunity doesn’t come along, Grant is content to sit out the season and pursue other things. If his last game turns out to be the Super Bowl victory, he can live with that as well.
“I’m prepared either way,” he said. “I don’t do anything career-wise that’s spontaneous. Everything is pre-thought. I’ve made sure I put my eggs in the basket and watched each one of them hatch. So I have some extra chicken in being ahead. I’m not the type to put myself in a position where I’m caught off-guard. I’m comfortable either way it goes. If I go play for a team I want to play for and God willing stay healthy, I’m going to play like it’s my fifth year in the league. If I choose to stay home, I’m comfortable with that also because I have some things I could be doing.”
Not having a full-time job in the NFL made his mother, Joyce Wright, more uncomfortable than Grant until he eased her mind.
“Mom, watch the games and enjoy them,” Grant told her. “And when it’s time for me to be out there, I’ll be out there. If not, that’s God’s plan and we have to be comfortable with that.”
Almost as comfortable as the Cowboys were against his old team.