- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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During their heart-to-heart, Beason made it clear he could still be viable as a starter even though the Panthers had opted to replace him with Chase Blackburn.
By early evening, a deal to move Beason to the winless New York Giants, pending a physical to be taken on Friday in New Jersey, for a late-round draft pick was well in the works.
Rivera would not say whether Beason asked to be traded, but acknowledged the three-time Pro Bowler broached the topic of playing somewhere else. Knowing how proud Beason is, how badly he wants to remain a starter . . . well, you read between the lines.
Through it all, Rivera said Beason remained the ultimate professional. As upset as he may have been about things that were being written about him the past few weeks, that never was a factor in the support he gave to the coaching staff and his players -- even the one that replaced him.
"The trade benefits both the team and Jon,'' Rivera said on Friday. "We'll obviously get something out of it and it gives Jon an opportunity to get on the field right away.''
It is sad when a team and a player as popular as Beason are forced to part. As wide receiver Steve Smith, a close friend of the 2007 first-round draft pick on and off the field said, "It's a part of this business, but it just sucks that it is.''
Beason and Smith had a long conversation as well before Beason left for New York. You could hear in Smith's voice that he will miss a player who had a good relationship with his entire family.
To him, Beason was family.
"The kids were sad to see him go,'' Smith said.
Beason's leadership will be missed even if his play on the field will not be. He was an inspiration to everyone around him with his intense workout routine, particularly in training camp when the days got long and the sun hot.
That's why Smith became so emotional when Beason went down with a torn Achilles tendon in the first game of the 2011 season.
"Jon was one of those guys, if he hurled or I hurled and we were working out, he would take his towel and give it to you and you wipe it off and then you get back in there,'' Smith said. "When you have that kind of relationship, and when you see a guy go down like that you get emotional, because ... you see where they come from and how hard they work.''
Rivera called Beason one of those that you cheer for because he's been through so much injury-wise, from the Achilles to offsesaon microfracture knee surgery.
His return to play weakside linebacker this season after surrendering a year ago the middle linebacker spot where he was among the league's elite from 2007-2010 was heralded.
"Nobody has worked harder than he has,'' Rivera said. "This reminded me so much of [linebacker] Thomas Davis in his return. That's why you cheer for guys like that. They put so much effort into it and they give you everything they can.
"I guess you could say in a way we want to give him an opportunity to get back out there.''
That is the real genesis of the trade. It gives the Panthers an opportunity to move forward even though they remain on the hook for about $8 million this year. It gives Beason a chance to help a struggling Giants defense and in turn give himself a chance to get back to where he once was -- something you can't do from the sideline.
Whether Beason can ever be that player remains to be seen.
"You can never be that old player, especially when injuries and age set in,'' Smith said of his 28-year-old friend. "You can improve and you can play better, but you are never who you are each and every year.
"I wouldn't say Jon digressed. He ran into some injuries that enabled him to show how well he could play and how smart he was.''
While Smith does not fault the Panthers for making the move, he also does not applaud them.
For him, this goes way business.
"Really, when your friend gets traded, I don't care how neat it's done, you always feel like, 'Man, why did they have to do him like that?' '' Smith said. "I'm not saying the organization did him good or bad. But as a friend, when you see a friend leave, you wish him the best but you wish him here.''
So the Panthers (1-2) move forward to play Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday. They move forward with Blackburn, who ironically signed with Carolina after spending the past eight years with the Giants.
Beason moves forward as well, and it all happened so fast neither side has had a chance to fully digest it.
"I don't think he really did anything wrong,'' Smith said. "He did the best he can with the circumstances.''
Injury update: Starting defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hamstring) will miss his second consecutive game. He will be replaced by Colin Cole. ... Safety Quintin Mikell (ankle) and cornerback D.J. Moore (knee) also are out for Sunday's game. ... Defensive end Greg Hardy returned to practice after missing the past two days with a fever.