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good article on CC Brown

Mr. P

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With NY Giants safety Kenny Phillips out, C.C. Brown assumes new role

C.C. Brown is used to tackling running backs, not acting like them. But last week, he reversed roles when he saw an opening and hit it — in the locker room, not the football field.


This was Thursday, when the media were trying to gather information on Kenny Phillips’ season-ending knee injury and figure out how the Giants would replace such a talented young player. With a crowd of reporters around Michael Johnson’s locker, Brown knew he had to make like a ballcarrier: hit the open doorway and make it through before he was practically tackled by the throng.


The media, who were oblivious to Brown’s brief presence, wanted to know more about the player who would be the starter now that Phillips was gone. But perhaps they discovered more about Brown from his disappearing than from anything he could have told them in an interview.


“C.C. doesn’t say anything. That’s just him,” Louisiana-Lafayette coach Ricky Bustle, who coached Brown in college, said the other day by phone. “He was very quiet here. But I’ll tell you what, he was a different guy when he walked onto that football field. When he stepped on there, he lit it up.”


It’s been five years since Brown became a two-time All-Sun Belt player for the Ragin’ Cajuns. The past four seasons, the former sixth-round pick was a starter at a low-profile position for a perennially losing team in the Texans, who were a combined 24-40 during Brown’s stay in Houston.


Brown moved to the league’s biggest market this past offseason but did so quietly: with a one-year, $1.6-million contract on the sixth day of free agency after the Giants had already made their big free-agency splash by handing out $84 million in three days to linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackles Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard.


Last week, Brown was seemingly thrust into the spotlight when Phillips was placed on injured reserve. Suddenly, everyone focused on the player who had mostly shunned the spotlight since arriving in the spring.


All they got from Brown were a few comments through the Giants’ public-relations staff on Friday about being thrown back into a starting role.


Per his agent, Chad Wiestling, Brown prefers to let his play, not his mouth, do the talking.


“Before I got here, I started 47 games out of my 50 games, so it’s a normal routine to me,” Brown said through the team. “I’m real confident. The guys that are out there with me make sure that I’m comfortable and they help me even if I do stumble along the way. The only thing I can do is try to fill (Phillips’) shoes to the best of my ability.”


Phillips’ shoes move a lot more quickly than Brown’s. The former first-round pick has incredible speed and is able to cover a lot of ground as a deep safety with “sideline-to-sideline” range. Brown is considered to be more of a “box” safety, meaning he’s more suited to play the strong-safety spot as a physical presence instead of a coverage safety.


“Kenny was a special athlete. He covered all the ground in the world,” linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “But our safeties, it doesn’t matter who’s in there. We ask them all to do the same job. We don’t differentiate (between strong and free safeties), so we’re going to play the same defense with him. He can do whatever he needs to do.”


Asked if Brown can compensate for the loss of Phillips as a deep safety, coach Tom Coughlin said, “I think he can, yeah. It’s not going to be an all-of-the-time thing. Both (Brown and Johnson) have to be able to play at the line of scrimmage and play in deep center field position – or deep half.”


In the preseason, Brown struggled to make tackles against the Jets. But in the other games, especially the finale against the Patriots, he showed what a physical presence he can be.


“He put some K.P. hits on film,” cornerback Corey Webster said in reference to Phillips, whose excellent tackling ability accompanies his ball-hawking skills to make him a complete safety.


Somewhere in the Louisiana-Lafayette film archives, there are tapes of Brown laying out opponents — and even teammates in practice, which didn’t always please the offensive-minded Bustle.


“I had to tell him to back it off a little bit,” Bustle said. “He was going to be in the right place and he was going to be there to take that shot at you because he didn’t pass those up.”


Bustle said Brown was always in the right place. The Cajuns’ coaching staff knew when they reviewed the game film on Sunday, they wouldn’t be tallying any mental errors for Brown. In fact, he was the one making the calls to line up the players on the field — a responsibility Bustle said his coaching staff (and many others) normally places on the free safety, not the strong safety.


Johnson said Brown continues to have a strong mind for X’s and O’s, as he was able to acclimate himself with the Giants’ defense more quickly than his teammates expected. Plus, in training camp, Brown gave Johnson a tip for covering tight ends, telling him to allow them to “break the cushion,” meaning he should slow down his backpedal in coverage and let the tight end get closer to him. That way, he’s closer to the man he’s covering when that player makes his break.


“He’s a veteran starter,” Johnson said, “so you know he knows the game well.”


And after a few months to get comfortable with his surroundings, Brown is actually starting to reveal his personality — even if he hasn’t yet shown it to the media.


“Most of us (defensive backs) have been here for a while, so he was probably just feeling people out and seeing who’s who and what’s what,” Webster said. “But now, he’s always picking at you and joking with you. Something you think he didn’t see, he’ll be like, ‘I saw that.’ He won’t say anything until he sees you, but he’ll get on you.”



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