Bumpy ride

The day Barrett Green signed with the Giants everyone was so upbeat and hopeful. The team was convinced it had found a bargain of a weak side linebacker who was a huge upgrade over the departed Dhani Jones. They believed he had the speed to become a force in Tim Lewis' defense. And they thought he was Tom Coughlin's kind of player as well.

Nine months later, even the 27-year-old Green concedes this season hasn't exactly worked out the way he's expected. He's had to battle a knee injury along with the losing, and he even managed to get himself thrown out of a game. And nine months after being quoted in a Giants press release as saying that Coughlin was "one of the main reasons I decided to play for the Giants," he's had to endure a seemingly constant battle with his coach.

That is perhaps the most surprising part of Green's nightmare season. The Giants were convinced he was a player who would thrive under Coughlin. Now, according to a front office source, they're not so sure.

Green isn't willing to go that far, but a few weeks ago after Coughlin benched him for a game – something Green called "probably one of the most frustrating experiences of my life" – he had to take a long pause before answering when someone asked if he was sorry he ever signed with the Giants at all.

"That's a tough question," Green said. "I'm not sorry I came here. I enjoy playing with my teammates. I enjoy this group of guys. It's just a troublesome situation. It's a situation I didn't predict. It's brought about a lot of difficulties. However, it's something I have to overcome."

It is no longer clear, though, how long Green – whose father, Joe, was a strong safety for the Giants in 1970 and '71 – will get to overcome his difficulties with Coughlin. The five-year, $13.25 million contract he signed on March 8 only included a $2.75 million signing bonus, meaning the Giants' cap hit would only be $1.1 million in each of the next two seasons if they cut him after June 1. The Giants like his abilities when he's healthy and would prefer he and Coughlin could co-exist, but they could very easily release him if Coughlin decides they can't work things out.

It's not completely clear when the trouble started between Green and Coughlin, though as a former union rep during his days with the Detroit Lions, Green was one of the players suspected to be behind the Giants' spring revolt, when 7-10 players complained to the NFL Players Association that Coughlin's offseason workout program was violating rules. Green denied he was part of the revolt – which ended up costing the Giants two of their workout days – and the players' names have never been revealed. Regardless, the initial damage was done.

Things got worse early in training camp when Green, along with two of his teammates, was fined for arriving late – or, more accurately, not early enough – to one of Coughlin's meetings. Green said "I wasn't late," because he arrived before the meeting started, even though Coughlin had ordered his players to be in their seats five minutes early. A grievance was filed with the NFLPA on Green's behalf (though Green says not at his request) because he said, "I wasn't late."

The big damage, though, came on Wednesday, Oct. 13, in the middle of the Giants' bye week when Green apparently showed up 90 minutes late to work. As everyone now knows, being late is an enormous pet peeve for Coughlin. And it led to a heated argument between the two before Coughlin benched Green for a game against the Detroit Lions, his former team.

When Green came back, he found out that he'd lost his full-time role and would be splitting time on the weak side with former middle linebacker Nick Greisen. Then came an injury to his left knee, and a scolding by Coughlin when he told the media that the injury was a torn meniscus and a burst bursa sac. That injury forced him to the sidelines for two games, before he returned to face the Philadelphia Eagles.

And in that game he ran afoul of Coughlin again. After Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter put a late, out-of-bounds hit on rookie quarterback Eli Manning, Green went after Trotter on the sidelines and got ejected for throwing a punch. Coughlin pulled no punches after the game, calling it "a dumb foul" and refusing to defend his player. Given a chance to soften his comments a day later, Coughlin refused, saying the penalty was "really foolish" and "not a smart play."

Would his words have been so harsh if another player committed the penalty? Perhaps. But other players were involved in the sideline fracas, and Green was the only one who drew Coughlin's wrath. Of course, he was also the only one to draw a penalty and an ejection, so it's impossible to tell what Coughlin would have done.

Mostly, it was just another incident in a season Green would rather forget. Through it all, he's been a stand-up guy, dutifully facing the media about all of these controversial topics, even though he tries desperately to change the subject of the conversation. But he can't hide the fact that he's never had a season as controversial as this.

"I played for Detroit the last three years so I've had my share of tumultuous seasons, I guess you could say, but not so much personally," Green said. "But I'm no stranger to adverse times. That's when people's character stands out."

So what has this season said about Green's character? How does Green feel he's weathered all of these unexpected storms?

"The best I could," he said. "Whether that be good or bad, it was the best I could probably do at that time. I would've liked it to have been more successful, as far as us winning. That's basically it."

Finally, when asked if he was still glad he signed with the Giants and still glad he decided to come play for Coughlin, Green looked down at the floor in front of him and very softly said "Yeah." His answer and his body language were hardly convincing.

And it wasn't hard to figure out why.


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