Silver lining

Nick Greisen still remembers his first start at middle linebacker two seasons ago. It was a chilly Sunday, Dec. 8th, against division-rival Washington Redskins.

Subbing for the injured Micheal Barrow at the time, Greisen came to play, notching his first career sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery – against former Florida QB and Steve Spurrier protégé Danny Wuerffel – on the same play in the second quarter.

The Giants went on to win that game, 27-21, and it was the first of four straight victories that propelled New York into a wild NFC playoff showdown with the San Francisco 49ers that became one for the ages. Not a bad start for a rookie who was a fifth-round draft pick – No. 152 overall.

"Yeah (I remember it). It was huge," Greisen said. "But, as a football player, you have to have a very short memory. Each game is new. Each week is new."

Well, unfortunately, as we flash forward back to 2004, the Giants are no longer winning. They are not headed towards this season's playoffs. However, that hasn't stopped Greisen from playing some of his best football.

He's played both middle and outside linebacker spots during the season, and had perhaps his best game at the "Will" position against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Greisen was a one-man wrecking crew, leading the team in tackles with 15, adding an eight-yard sack for good measure. For the season, he's racked up 59 total tackles, placing him fifth on the team, with one sack, one fumble recovery, and he's tied for fourth with five passes defensed.

Greisen's development has been so dramatic, and his versatility so noteworthy, that it's not out of the question that New York could try and shed some salary in the offseason by cutting the disappointing Barrett Green, who has not exactly been a favorite of head coach Tom Coughlin.

"I think it helps me out with the team," said the 6-1, 245-pound linebacker, "to be able to play two different positions. Especially with the numbers down – we've lost so many guys. It always helps when you can do more.

"It helps the organization."

And, when you consider how the season began – with Greisen banged up, and unexpectedly on the bench – it's been a pleasant surprise for both him ... and the organization.

"I'm just glad I had the opportunity this year," Greisen said. "The way it started, I didn't think I was going to play that much. But, as a backup in this league, you have to remember, you're always just one play away."

Thankfully for the Giants, Greisen has found his way onto the field, and into the lineup. He is one of many youngsters that can possibly help New York rekindle its winning ways in 2005. With other young talent such as defensive end Osi Umenyiora, safety Gibril Wilson and cornerback Will Peterson on the defensive side, and quarterback Eli Manning, tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Jamaar Taylor on the offensive side, the Giants certainly have a core of young talent to build from within.

Greisen is cut in the Giants' mold of defender – big and physical. He amassed an amazing 337 tackles during his collegiate career at Wisconsin, and last year he was fourth in special teams tackles with 15. And playing his college ball for the Badgers, he is not bothered by the cold and winds that have plagued Giants Stadium since its inception in 1976.

"I think they just look for guys that are physical players," Greisen said when asked about the Giants' scouting of him. "I'm sure the fact that I played in the cold weather helps. I'm not bothered by it. I'm not afraid of it. I played my college ball in Wisconsin, so I'm used to it."

But, one thing Greisen's not used to is losing. He came from a top program in college, and experienced just a small taste of winning his first season in the NFL. And despite the frustration of this season, his third in the pros, Greisen plays on, trying to find that silver lining that can help turn the team around in '05 and beyond.

"I've looked at this season, and I was very frustrated," said Greisen, the will-to-win very evident in his voice. "I look at it as an opportunity to show myself as a football player. To show what I can do, and how I can help this team win the very next year ... and two years on. I want to help this team win."

Until then, he has those few fond memories of his rookie season. Of starting his first game at middle linebacker and winning four straight. And, playing in the marathon NFC Wild-Card Game against the 49ers. And forever hoping to experience that again – perhaps as early as next season.

"Everybody wants to win," Greisen said with genuine emotion. "That's one of the greatest feelings in life – to be able to win something that you put your heart into. Winning is the goal, and when you do that, there's nothing better."

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