Once upon a time, New York Giants linebacker Keith Rivers was one of the most heralded college prospects in the nation. His size, speed and athleticism made him attractive enough to the Cincinnati Bengals to choose with the ninth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Rivers was chosen ahead of current superstars Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Joe Flacco, DeSean Jackson and several others. His ceiling was through the roof, but Rivers' career never got off the ground in Cincinnati and he was traded to the Giants this past offseason.
Injuries have held Keith Rivers back from becoming a productive NFL player. In his rookie season, Rivers had a chance to win Rookie of the Year before a blindside hit from Hines Ward broke his collarbone. Rivers played in 28 games over the next two seasons, but he never seemed to be a great fit in Marvin Lewis' defense. Furthermore, Rivers missed all of the 2011 season with a wrist injury. He did not get surgery on his wrist until the late stages of the offseason, which prompted the Bengals to place him on the non-football injury list.
“I can’t control it,” Rivers said. “So I just continue to work, get healthy and when I am healthy, I’ll be a good football player, which when I’m out there I’ve been able to be for years, so I just continue to do that. It’s out of my control.”
Rivers has had issues staying in the field in a Giants uniform as well. He has missed three games so far through 2012, and is questionable to play on Sunday. He has battled through both hamstring and calf issues. However, when on the field, Rivers has shown a propensity for being a run stopper and a relatively reliable weapon in underneath coverage.
With Jacquian Williams out of the lineup again this Sunday, the Giants could use Rivers' speed at linebacker. The defense has trouble covering underneath routes against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week nine, and it helped Ben Roethlisberger lead his team to several third-down conversions. If Rivers can play, he will be a valuable addition to a struggling defense.
However, Rivers is not looking at this game as an opportunity to seek revenge against his old team. In fact, he still keep in touch with former USC teammates Taylor Mays and Rey Maualuga.
“There’s no reason to have any hard feelings,” Rivers said. “We just weren’t on a same page, actually for a long time, and finally we were able to end, and I’m happy with where I’m at, and hopefully they’re happy with where they’re at.”
The Giants' defense has given up 1,263 yards of total offense over the last three games. A healthy Keith Rivers could potentially help Big Blue stop the run and force opponents to become more one dimensional. Rivers is probably the fastest linebacker on the team and has not reached his full potential in a Giants uniform. It's good to know his focus is not on revenge heading into Sunday, and he is more concerned with doing what he has to do in order to help his team win an important football game.
Photo Credit: Mike Gannon
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