There was no hesitation. Jon Beason landed awkwardly on his right foot and limped off the field during Thursday's New York Giants OTA at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Devon Kennard buckled his chin strap and jogged into the huddle, assuming Beason's role at middle linebacker.
The transition happened seamlessly. No fireworks. No charades. The fifth-round pick simply slid over from his position at strong side linebacker, where he had been working at the time of Beason's injury, and assumed the position in the middle of the field.
"If you know what you're doing, you can play fast," Kennard said. "That is what I'm using this time for and all the reps I'm getting out there every day. I'm getting more and more comfortable and taking control of everything more and more.
"So far it's going smooth."
With Beason sidelined 12 weeks due to a broken bone and torn ligament in that right foot, the Giants hope Kennard keeps headed in that positive direction. Throughout the course of the Giants offseason conditioning program, Kennard has impressed the coaching staff. The USC alum has picked up the playbook quickly while working at both the SAM and MIKE linebacker positions. Tom Coughlin has taken notice, offering praise for the rookie.
"He's picked things up very well," Coughlin said. "He's very smart, very good on the board. He's done a nice job on the field, a good job on special teams. We're excited about him. A nice big kid, strong kid."
Kennard had been working primarily with the second team throughout OTAs, but if the 22-year-old isn't ready to move up to the first group the Giants' have other options.
Mark Herzlich has experience in the middle, but has struggled. When Ray Lewis was injured in 2012, Jameel McClain filled in in his place. Kennard will be given his opportunity, but few expected him to have to contribute this early.
Few, that is, except for Kennard.
"I feel like I prepare like a starter all the time regardless of the situation or circumstance," Kennard said. "My approach to the game, it's starter-like. When that opportunity came today, it was a smooth transition."