33-Year-Old Lineman Has Gone From Bubble Guy In Camp To Starter, Hopes To Help Big Blue Get First Win Sunday At Houston

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — After joining the New York Giants as a late-season addition, veteran offensive lineman John Greco came to training camp as somewhat of a bubble guy on the roster.

Both a guard and center, the 33-year-old seemed to be the odd guy out at both spots.

Jon Halapio and Brett Jones were the top centers, and rookie Will Hernandez and free-agent signee Patrick Omaneh were the top two guards. Greco and long-time starter John Jerry were fighting for a roster spot.

Funny thing happened. New York traded Jones to Minnesota in training camp and Greco beat out Jerry because of his ability to play center and guard.

Two-plus weeks into the season, Greco is now a starter. The 11-year veteran is getting an unexpected chance because Halapio broke his right leg and ankle in the third quarter of the 20-13 loss to the Cowboys.

“Any time you lose your partner in crime, one of your buddies in your room, you feel for him,” Greco said Wednesday as the Giants (0-2) practiced for Sunday’s game in Houston against the Texans (0-2).

“We know that he’s going to come back stronger than ever, but at the same time we just have to do everything we can this week to try to get a win. It’s going to be a tough road game, awesome atmosphere down in Houston, so we are excited about the challenge and opportunity.”

Eli Manning

New center John Greco will be responsible for helping keep Giants quarterback Eli Manning upright going forward. Manning was sacked six times last week against the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Greco is on his third tour with coach Pat Shurmur. The two also worked for the Rams, and Greco also was in Cleveland when Shurmur coached the Browns.

Greco joins an offensive line that has struggled. New York is ranked in the bottom five on offense in yards per game, total yards passing, total yards running, first downs, points and passing average. The line has allowed eight sacks, including six by the Cowboys on Sunday night.

“We just have to focus everything on in-house,” Greco said. “We don’t really listen to the talk outside, we know we have to play better and that’s the focus every week. When we get some wins it’s going to be the same thing. There’s going to be no let-up, and that’s how you’ve got to approach it.

“You can’t be complacent and when you know things aren’t going your way you just have to do everything extra, and do everything in your power to be the cause of the wins and not the cause of losses.”

MOREYet Another Brutal Start By Giants Has Many On Edge

Quarterback Eli Manning spoke with Greco this week and does not expect a problem making the transition.

“He’s been here all training camp,” Manning said. “We’ve worked together, we’ve gotten snaps throughout training camp and everything so that shouldn’t be a problem. He knows what’s going on. We’ve met this week, we’ve talked a bunch on some calls, making sure we’re saying the same thing and hearing things the same way.”

The bigger problem will be getting the offense in gear. Manning did not have enough time to throw and there were not many holes for rookie running back Saquon Barkley against Dallas.

“I think we’re close on things,” Manning said. “You’re going against good players and they’re going to make plays sometimes and that’s fine, but when there are opportunities and when things should be picked up or guys should be going certain ways, you got to do those things and give yourself an opportunity to make those plays when they can be there.”

Greco is looking forward to helping the offense. A year ago, he was sitting home waiting for someone to sign him.

“I knew I still had enough gas in the tank that I could’ve been playing and I was just happy I got the opportunity here last year and then again this offseason, and here we are,” he said. “So, that really hasn’t entered my mind. It’s more of a laugh thing I can do at myself but yeah, I’m excited about the opportunity.”

NOTES: LB Olivier Vernon (ankle), CB Eli Apple (hamstring) and LB Connor Barwin (knee) did not practice. Vernon has not played in a game this season. Apple was hurt Sunday. Barwin has been bothered by a nagging injury in recent weeks although he has not missed games. … Starting tight end Evan Engram (ankle) and punter returner Kaelin Clay (ankle) were limited. … New York signed FB Elijhaa Penny off Arizona’s practice squad. Halapio, who had surgery Monday, was placed on injured reserve to make room for him.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)