- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Rookie middle linebacker Greg Jones has come a long way in a short time with the New York Giants.

The sixth-round draft pick from Michigan State spent most of training camp working with the third-team defense.

Following the final cuts over the weekend and a major knee injury to Jonathan Goff on Monday, Jones seemingly is now the starting middle linebacker for the season opener against the Washington Redskins Sunday.

Jones had a chance to work with the first team for the first time on Wednesday and enjoyed himself.

“It was cool just being out there,” Jones said. “It is a different type of motivation. Everybody is so positive and nobody is saying: ‘You’re only a rookie.’ Everybody is just saying you can do this, just believe in yourself.”

Jones has no doubts that he can play the MIKE position. He left college as the Spartans’ all-time leader in tackles for loss with 46 1/2, and was third all time in tackles with 465. He led the team or tied for team lead in tackles in 31 of his last 39 games.

However, he is taking over for Goff on short notice. Goff injured his right knee running into an offensive lineman in practice on Monday and the team didn’t learn he had torn his ACL until Tuesday afternoon.

Jones didn’t know about it until linebacker coach Jim Herrmann gave him a call and told him it was time to step up.

Jon (Goff) always said just be ready,” Jones said. “All of a sudden, wow! I didn’t see that coming, I feel ready for it.”

So do his teammates who put on a brave face with this latest injury. Since training camp opened, the Giants have lost cornerbacks Bruce Johnson and Terrell Thomas with Achilles’ tendon injuries, backup linebacker Clint Sintim with a knee injury, second-round draft pick Marvin Austin, a defensive tackle, with a torn pectoral muscle and now Goff, who started all 16 games in the middle last season.

First-round draft pick Prince Amukamara, a cornerback, broke his foot early in camp, and two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umemyiora is still rehabilitating his knee after arthroscopic surgery.

“This is adversity,” veteran safety Deon Grant said. “This is the NFL. Dealing with what we’re dealing with, I don’t think it’s happened like that in a long time. I know I can’t remember my whole career, but that’s adversity. You see what Green Bay went through last year. The next guy has to make sure he picks it up.”

Jones is next up at middle linebacker and Grant has been impressed with him.

“Football is his No. 1 priority and he can play,” Grant said. “When you got that, that’s phenomenal, but he’s a (mean) dog at heart, and that’s what you need for any kind of player, but especially at that MIKE linebacker.”

Linebacker Michael Boley said it felt a little different looking toward the middle and seeing Jones. The only other time he has lined up next to Jones was in walkthroughs.

Story Continues →