On the strong side

Carlos Emmons came to his locker in a good mood, as usual. The easygoing Emmons accommodated every television and print reporter, thoughtfully answering questions with the utmost honesty. Emmons even remained a little later than necessary to finish addressing one persistent journalist's inquiries. As he hustled toward a meeting, Emmons joked, "You might've made me late."

The reporter, mindful of Tom Coughlin's "five minutes early or you're fined" rule, retorted, "Send me the bill."

A smiling Emmons promised he would, and then jogged out of the locker room.

The fact that Emmons remains remarkably upbeat approaching the final quarter of his second season as a Giant is impressive considering all he has endured during the last three months.

The 10th-year pro was surprisingly switched from strongside or "Sam" linebacker to weakside or "Will" linebacker two weeks into training camp to accommodate Coughlin's needs, created by injuries to Barrett Green and Nick Greisen.

Though he had never played on the weak side at the professional level, Emmons smoothly made the transition and was one of the Giants' most effective defensive players through three games. But a Chargers offensive lineman fell on Emmons' left leg during the Giants' lopsided loss at San Diego on Sept. 25, and Emmons missed their ensuing game against St. Louis.

A healthier Greisen's emergence moved Emmons back to the strong side when he returned for their close loss at Dallas on Oct. 16. Emmons entered that game feeling about 100 percent, thanks largely to the bye week that was sandwiched between the Cowboys and Rams games, but he didn't remain healthy for long. He turned his right ankle while pursuing Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, whose heel was stepped on by Emmons.

The injury limited him in practice prior to their game against Denver on Oct. 23, but Emmons managed to play. His health again became an issue, however, as he suffered a slightly torn pectoral muscle in the Giants' thrilling comeback victory over the Broncos. He missed their three following games, but has played pretty well since returning for the last two games.

And the ex-Eagle only needs to look a couple lockers to his right to realize things could always be worse. Green is on injured reserve and is still struggling to return to form following offseason surgeries on his knee and ankle. The player the Giants had hoped would be their weakside linebacker has played in only 11 of 27 games since signing with the team prior to the 2004 season.

"Luckily, (my injuries have) been things I can overcome, things that aren't major," Emmons said. "You see so many guys going out for the year, I mean, you've got to be happy getting something where you only miss a (limited amount of time). So as long as it's nothing major, I'm thankful for that and I can get over it."

The Witten incident, for instance, could've been catastrophic, but Emmons was able to return to the game after suffering the ankle sprain early in the third quarter.

"We tell people in this game that you're an inch or two from being hurt at all times," Emmons said. "When you're in a pile and a guy comes flying from the side, you see him 48 out of 50 times and you get out of the way. We think that all the time when we see it on film. ‘If that guy didn't see him, he probably would've broke his leg. But luckily he saw him.' That's all it takes, that one time when a guy comes from that blind side, and you're hurt. I think that's why so many people get knocked out. I think it's all about luck, when it comes to that kind of stuff."

The Giants feel they've been lucky to have a versatile player like Emmons among their linebackers. Greisen, in particular, can appreciate Emmons' willingness to play multiple positions for the greater good of the team, since he has played all three linebacker positions during his four seasons with the team.

"Carlos did a great job going over to the weak side," Greisen said. "I think he was able to show some people that he could do some things that they didn't know he could do."

While his teammates were aware of his multi-dimensional game, Emmons, who signed a five-year, $16.5 million deal with the Giants before the 2004 season, isn't exactly the poster boy for what league personnel people look for in a weakside linebacker. The former Arkansas State standout stands 6-5 and weighs 250 pounds. Green goes 6-0, 225, much closer to the norm for NFL players at the position.

"I think people around the league know what I can do," Emmons said. "But I'm not a typical Will backer, as far as what their vision of one is. They pretty much see the Will as being a smaller guy, more of a big strong safety. But I think when you play the game smart, you're able to adjust to situations."

Emmons made his most dramatic impact on the weak side during the Giants' Week 2 victory over visiting New Orleans. He showed tremendous athleticism in leaping to intercept an Aaron Brooks pass in the second quarter, which led to a touchdown that put the Giants in front by 14 points. Emmons, Pittsburgh's seventh-round draft choice in 1996, defended another pass in that game, after knocking away two in their season-opening win against Arizona, to display pass coverage skills he had been less able to showcase while playing on the strong side.

Emmons admits he was having fun playing a new position, but with Greisen playing well and second-year man Reggie Torbor plagued by inconsistency and a hernia, he understands that the switch back to his more familiar spot was necessary.

"I think I played well on the weak side," Emmons, 32, said. "I can always play better. But I think with Nick being able to step in like he has, it takes a lot of pressure off them, as far as moving me out of my position. I'm willing to play either one of them. I was having a good time playing Will, and I'm having a good time playing Sam."

He'll continue, too, to study gameplans from both perspectives, just in case more injuries necessitate moving over again.

"Being in the league for as long as I have, I try to prepare myself for everything," Emmons said. "I look at every situation in the game and say, ‘Well, what if this guy gets hurt? They're probably going to move me to this position. If this guy goes down, I might have to go play end, or I might have to play Will, or I might have to play Mike (middle linebacker) on third down or Will on third down.' So when I'm looking at the game plan, I look at all the positions, just in case. So I try to pretty much know what everyone's doing. I even look at the DBs. I try to know where people are going to be, to try to know why I'm doing what I'm doing."

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