It is an indelible image from last season’s preseason game between the Jets and the Giants; Eli Manning reaching up to feel the blood pouring from a gash in his forehead.
“He was bleeding all over the place,” Jets safety Jim Leonhard said. “It’s not really something you want to see on the field, but fortunately he was fine.”
It was a simple botched play. Manning bumped Giants running back Brandon Jacobs and, before he could recover, Jets linebacker Calvin Pace rushed in and caught him from behind, sending Manning’s helmet flying. Unprotected, Manning collided with Leonhard and came away wounded.
“I think if the helmet had been on tighter it probably wouldn’t have happened,” Pace said.
Pace missed the end of the chain of events, because he was on the field going after the loose ball. But Leonhard remembers everything he saw.
“They unfortunately left Calvin free, from the blind side,” Leonhard said. “It was an ugly looking hit. There was no way I planned on doing what I did but he kinda got hit into me.
“I still don’t know where he hit I think he scraped his head on my helmet. It’s tough but there’s not like there’s anything we could have don’t differently. Calvin had a clean hit and he knocked him into me.”
Manning missed some practices with the injury, but it happened early enough in camp that he could play the first game of the regular season. Leonhard, who needed months to recover from a compound fracture in December, noted that he would have easily taken Manning’s gash over the broken leg.
Jets linebacker Bart Scott saw the play unfold.
“Put a little dirt on it,” Scott said. “It was one of those plays he got hit from the front and the back fumbling the snap. But it’s really no big deal, you fumble the snap you leave yourself vulnerable. A busted play.”
Even though this is just a preseason game, it always holds a little more significance. Pace and Leonhard both noted that when they see Giants players out during the year at charitable or promotional events, it’s nice to be able to rub in a preseason win.
Pace said above all, he thinks the rivalry is good for New York.
“I like playing them,” Pace said, “I think it brings out the best in all of us.”