EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Ryan Mundy is no longer waiting for an NFL starting job. The New York Giants just gave him one.
Mundy snared the Giants' free safety spot Saturday night when Stevie Brown tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while returning an interception in the Giants' 24-21 overtime loss to the Jets.
The injury was fluky. Brown, who led the team with eight interceptions last season, planted his foot and his knee gave out. And it certainly was not the way Mundy wanted a starting spot, but that's the position he's in less than two weeks before the season opener at Dallas.
"It's always an unfortunate situation when you see a good player and your friend go down with an unfortunate injury," Mundy said Monday before practice. "But this is a situation I'm familiar with stepping in for guys who when they go do down, and I'm excited about that opportunity and to make the most of it."
Mundy started five games last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, filling in for two of the top safeties in the league, Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu.
When Clark was out, Mundy played free safety. When Polamalu was sidelined, he went to strong safety.
That is going to help him with the Giants, who signed him as a free agent this spring.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to safeties to flip-flop at times, so they play both spots.
Entering his fifth season, Mundy has to develop chemistry with fellow safety Antrel Rolle in a hurry, and that might be tough. Rolle, after all, is returning from an ankle injury and is not likely to play Thursday at New England in the preseason finale.
"I pride myself on being like an above-the-neck-type player," Mundy said. "I have a great understanding of the defense and that's something I'm continuing to work on each and every day. I'm very comfortable with where I'm at. I'm happy with my progress, but still I feel like I have a lot of work to do."
Rolle believes that the more he plays with Mundy, and the more they talk on the field and in the meeting rooms, the chemistry won't be a problem.
"He's a physical presence, he's a smart guy and he understands the game," Rolle said before practicing with Mundy. "We're looking for Ryan to come in and do big things. We've said that before. Stevie got hurt, and we're going to need him more now.
"I'm sure Ryan will come in and do a great job."
The problem for the Giants might be their depth at safety. Other than his play on special teams, third-year pro Tyler Sash has not been tested much. Second-year pro Will Hill is more athletic than Sash but he is going to sit out the first four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy for the second straight year. And rookie Cooper Taylor missed a chunk of training camp with a hamstring injury and just returned to practice.
Fewell has other options. Veteran cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas have played safety in their careers and they are tested.
Thomas, who is just returning to the NFL after missing two seasons with major knee injuries, is ready if they need him.
"I told you guys, I'd been learning the safety position to be a utility guy number one and, second, just to have a better feel for the defense and knowing everybody's responsibility, becoming a leader and being able to communicate," Thomas said. "If they call my button, I'll be ready to go."
NOTES: The only player left on physically unable to perform list is second-year DT Markus Kuhn (knee). Coach Tom Coughlin said he is getting close to returning. ... CB Corey Webster (groin-knee) and WR Ramses Barden (knee) returned to practice. ... The experiments on the offensive line continue this week, as Kevin Boothe moved to center and James Brewer took over at left guard. Jim Cordle played center Saturday. ... Coughlin indicated his starters would play some against the Patriots on Thursday in the preseason finale.