It was personal for Michael Boley the first time he faced the Atlanta Falcons.
But the New York Giants linebacker said there won’t be any added emotions on Sunday when he faces his old team again in the playoffs.
“I am in a better situation,” Boley said. “Looking back, I couldn’t even think of a place I would rather be right now.”
Boley signed a five-year, $25-million contract with the Giants in 2009 after spending his first four seasons with the Falcons. Drafted in the fifth round by Atlanta in 2005, Boley had a career-high 109 tackles as a full-time starter in 2007. But the next year, Boley was benched toward the end of the season by new head coach Mike Smith.
“Michael Boley has had a very good career and he is a very athletic linebacker,” Smith said in a conference call with New York reporters on Wednesday. “In terms of us building our roster, you have to make decisions based on the offensive and defensive sides of the football. We made a decision and Michael has done a very good job up there in New York. I have enjoyed watching Michael play, he is the same guy that we had down here. He is very athletic three-down linebacker.”
Boley said he knew he wasn’t wanted anymore and admitted he was angry initially.
“I guess for all the hard work that I put in early in my career and then for them to basically say we are not going to try to re-sign you says a lot,” Boley said.
“It’s tough,” he added. “I guess when you go starting early on in my rookie year and then being a starter for three-plus years and then having to take a step back, for anybody it’s kind of disheartening.”
When asked if he was ever given an explanation for why the Falcons benched him or didn’t want to re-sign him, Boley replied, “Yeah. I don’t want to talk about it.”
When the Giants played the Falcons in 2009, Boley had 13 tackles in a 34-31 win. Boley admitted that he was motivated by whatever reason it was for Atlanta letting him go.
“It was fresh in my mind then,” he said. “I made my point [to them on the field]. My point was heard very well.”
Boley is a very important piece in Perry Fewell’s defense. He is the team’s lone every-down linebacker and has the speed to cover tight ends and running backs. Boley, who finished second on the team in tackles (93), also relays Fewell’s calls into the huddle.
When he injured his hamstring in the first half against San Francisco, the Giants lost that game and the next two without him. They used third safety Deon Grant to relay calls into the huddle for the majority of the time with Boley out and Justin Tuck said Boley was probably the one defensive player the unit could not afford to lose.
Now Boley hopes to remind the Falcons of what they let go a few years ago. But he’s also happy with the way things worked out.
“When the Giants were interested [in free agency], I was just like, ‘that’s where I want to be,’” Boley said. “That’s any linebacker’s dream. When you hear about linebackers and the New York Giants, they’ve always had a history of good linebackers.”