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Dan Connor: Looking forward to being Giants' man in the middle

Dan Connor is expected to become the New York Giants' middle linebacker after signing a free-agent contract with the team Saturday.

Linebacker Dan Connor is coming to a new team, having signed a one-year contract with the New York Giants on Saturday. In another way, however, Connor will be returning to something familiar.

The Giants have signed him to be the middle linebacker in their 4-3 defense. Connor has spent time at both outside linebacker and middle linebacker, and spent last season trying to fit into the 3-4 defense run by the Dallas Cowboys. The 6-foot-2, 241-pound five-year veteran is happy to return to what he considers his best position in the system he believes he is best suited for.

'I wanted to get back into a 4-3 look. I think that's [middle linebacker] my position.' - Dan Connor

"Talking to the Giants coaches, the (4-3) system seems to fit me. I wanted to get back into a 4-3 look," Connor said. "I think that's [middle linebacker] my position," Connor said. "That's the position where I'm comfortable. I played it in college, I was in the middle of a 4-3 in Carolina. So I feel most comfortable in the middle."

Newsday's Tom Rock dug up a quote from Tom Coughlin during the 2012 season that shows how Coughlin feels about his new middle linebacker.

"Connor is a good player. He’s played in this league. He’s played in their scheme. ... He’s physical, he’s a veteran, he’s good instinctively. Obviously, Sean Lee is their leading tackler, so there will be a factor there. Connor is a good player."

Connor has played in 56 games with 27 career starts. The man he replaces, Chase Blackburn, started only 36 games in an eight-year career.

Connor is switching sides in what is a bitter NFC East rivalry, at least from the perspective of the fan bases."(Giants-Cowboys) is a big-time rivalry. It runs deep. There are a couple of them in the NFC East. I know it's a competitive one with definitive hatred from team to team, and you don't see that much in the NFL. But it's alive in this division," Connor said.

"It's a great opportunity. When my agent called me and said they were interested I was so thrilled. This is a class organization with a lot of tradition. They're a successful team with a winning tradition and it was something I wanted to be a part of. I'm really looking forward to it."

The Giants will likely have a completely new look at linebacker in 2013. The recently re-signed Keith Rivers figures to start on side, Connor figures to start in the middle (though Mark Herzlich might have a different opinion) and either Jacquian Williams or Spencer Paysinger will likely start on the weak side. Unless, of course, the Giants use an early draft pick on a linebacker.