Costanzo's Been on Fire


Blake Costanzo (45) on the Rhein Fire

This is the first of a four-part series on the four Jets participating in NFL Europa this spring.

With this new-fangled Internet, word about an NFL team's draft choices not only gets around pretty quickly. It gets around the world very quickly.

So it's no surprise that Rhein Fire linebacker Blake Costanzo got wind of the New York Jets' second-round selection of David Harris.

"Yeah, they took a linebacker, I heard," Costanzo told recently. But did the news affect him one way or another? "Not at all, man. It doesn't matter who they drafted or signed for free agents. I'm going to try to help the team any way I can."

Costanzo, who has described himself as a "throwback" kind of linebacker, has been a man on fire for Rhein. Starting on the strongside in the 4-3 defense, he had a Fire-leading 37 tackles, including a team-high seven in Saturday's night 23-10 loss at Frankfurt.

He also has two sacks, a 37-yard interception return, four pass defenses and a forced fumble through seven games. He's been making plays.

"Oh, yeah, I'm having a great time over here. We're getting a good opportunity to play a lot and that's all I wanted," he said. "I've been working on my whole game in general, just my knowledge of football, reading plays, learning different things about reading different linemen. I definitely wanted to work on the mental part of my game."

Costanzo hasn't been doing much sightseeing although he has gotten out to tour the city of Dusseldorf. And he hasn't had many culinary adventures — "The food at our hotel is pretty good, kind of like American food," he said.

His culture has come with drinking in the atmosphere of the crowds that have attended Rhein's games. Even though the undrafted free agent from Lafayette played in all four of the Jets' preseason contests last year before being released and ultimately re-signed, he still can appreciate the average crowd of 22,000 that has attended the Fire's games.

"The fans are great," he said. "At my small school, I never played in front of crowds like that before. This is Germany. There's a lot of singing, whistles and horns in the stands."

Maybe there will still be some noisemaking for Costanzo as a member of the Green & White. Fans will speculate about whom Harris affects most as he moves into the inside linebacker picture alongside Jonathan Vilma. Starter Eric Barton? Brad Kassell, who backed up Barton? Anthony Schlegel, last year's third-rounder? There doesn't seem to be much room for Costanzo.

But he'll try to make room. His ace in the hole is his special teams play, which doesn't seem to have suffered by his starting role in NFL Europa. He's been in on three kick-coverage tackles, tied for most on the team.

And Costanzo doesn't see a downside to having thrown his body around for 10 games from April to June, just in time to participate in another tough training camp conducted by head coach Eric Mangini.

"As soon as I get back, I'll get a couple of weeks of rest and I'll be ready to go," he said. "Actually, I think it benefits me. There's no way to get in football shape besides playing football."

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