EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — With end Jason Pierre-Paul's status uncertain because of a hand injury sustained in a July 4 fireworks accident, the New York Giants' defense can't afford any more injuries.
That's what has made middle linebacker Jon Beason such a vital ingredient in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's new defense.
Beason is the rock in the middle. Not only can he play the run, the nine-year veteran is somewhat a coach on the field. He's a smart player who makes sure everyone is in position.
With him, the Giants' defense has a chance to be OK after finishing near the bottom of the league in 2014.
Whether he stays healthy is the big question mark this season. Beason has not played a full season since 2010. He was limited to four games by a toe injury last year, and he has played four or less games every year since 2011 with the exception being 2013, when the Giants acquired him from Carolina in an in-season trade.
Beason was outstanding playing 12 games for the Giants in 2013, and 15 overall.
The Giants struggled without him most of last season, particularly against the run.
"Well, that's the best kind of pressure," Beason said Wednesday's before the team's first full-pads workout. "You know it's an opportunity to do something great; when people put a lot on you. Obviously I think I can do a lot. I think, when healthy, I think we're a better team, a better defense. The pressure of that, it pushes me. It drives me to do more."
Beason has felt good since reporting to camp last week. The Achilles tendon injury (2011), the knee ('12) and the toe are all fine. While he is 30, all the time off in the past four seasons has meant less wear and tear on the body.
Still, that's no guarantee for this season.
"Football is injury prone," Beason said. "You know it's seriously out of your control. That's the most frustrating part about it. When people say that this happens to one guy more than not, there's been great players that never were (hurt). So, I'm blessed, I'm fortunate to have come this far, to have the time that I have, I enjoy it. Now, I just focus on being in the moment and enjoying the very next rep because I know that's all that is guaranteed."
Beason isn't worried about his toe. He is aware there are orthotics and the plate in his shoe, but his focus is on playing. There will be more contact this week in camp. Next week the intensity level will pick up with workouts against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The learning never stops. There is always time for skull sessions with Spagnuolo, back with the team after a six-year absence that started with three seasons as Rams head coach.
"I knew going into it that his scheme was going to be very complex," Beason said. "A lot is on my shoulders and that's something that I'm trying to live up to the expectations. For him, they're through the roof, but obviously my own expectations. I have a lot on my shoulders and I'm looking forward to it."
The Giants have some experience behind Beason. Jameel McClain took over in the middle after Beason went on injured reserve last season and led the Giants in tackles. Mark Herzlich also can play in the middle, but neither combines all the things Beason brings to the defense.
McClain left practice early on Wednesday with a "stinger" in his neck.
NOTES: First-round draft pick Ereck Flowers is day to day with a hip flexor and did not practice. The starting left tackle expects to be ready for the preseason opener Aug. 14. ... C Weston Richburg also did not practice because of tendinitis in his knee. CB Prince Amukamara (groin) was limited. ... Defensive end George Selvie, who played with Pierre-Paul at South Florida, says his former teammate is just trying to get healthy, so he can rejoin the team. "He has to feel like he's healthy again and when he's ready to come back, he'll be back." ... Coach Tom Coughlin has another team bonding drill with defensive backs and wide receivers throwing passes and attempting to hit the crossbar between the goalposts. Each team hit once, so the offense and defense all did push-ups.