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Beat-up Giants scramble just to conduct practice

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Forget motivating his team for the final two games of the season coming off a shutout home loss to last week, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has more pressing matters - beginning with finding healthy bodies.

The Giants were missing almost 19 percent of their 53-man roster Wednesday as they began preparations for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions, forcing Coughlin to alter his practice plans.

"It will be adjusted," he said. "We'll do half speed work and half jog-thru. We'll get all the learning in, but probably half of the speed stuff."

With a little bit of luck, Coughlin said, the team hopes to get back three or four of those key players who missed Wednesday's session, though he joked when asked which players might return.

"Wanna roll the dice?" he said.

Upon closer inspection of the team's injury report, there are three areas that could potentially create issues for the Giants if the players in question aren't able to go.

The first is at receiver, as Victor Cruz (concussion/knee) and Jerrel Jernigan (knee) are both banged up to the point where the team promoted Julian Talley from the practice squad as backup depth.

Cruz is unlikely to play this week, even if he passes the concussion protocol and returns to practice.

"He's going through the concussion protocol, but he does have a knee that will probably prevent him from doing anything," Coughlin said of Cruz.

Jernigan, who last week led the team with receptions (seven) and receiving yards (67) is also the team's kickoff returner.

If he can't go against the Lions, the Giants could look to cornerback Charles James to handle the kickoff return duties as well as the punt return duties, the latter of which are currently handled by receiver Rueben Randle, who figures to have a bigger role in the offense this weekend.

At running back, Peyton Hillis has yet to pass the concussion protocol and his status for Sunday in question.

With Brandon Jacobs on injured reserve, the Giants might be forced to go with a rotation of Andre Brown and Michael Cox, with Brown getting the bulk of the planned rushes. Fullback John Conner, who has had a few touches at the NFL level but who has yet to carry the ball for the Giants, could also be an option in an emergency.

The biggest worry, though, is on the offensive line, where guards David Diehl and James Brewer are both nursing injuries. As it is, the offensive line hasn't played well as a whole all season. Diehl, who was held out Wednesday due to some swelling he experienced in his knee during the game, might have a better chance of being in the lineup on Sunday.

Brewer is another story, though in his case he has struggled so badly that even if he was healthy the coaches might go in another direction. If Brewer can't play, presumably the Giants would stick with Brandon Mosley, who relieved Brewer last week, at the left guard spot.

"We've got to regroup and compete like heck, and play much better and do a better job at protecting the quarterback," Coughlin said.

The status of the offensive line naturally raised a question regarding whether Coughlin might consider sitting quarterback Eli Manning, who has started 149 consecutive games.

"We've talked about this," Coughlin said. "He wants to play. He looks forward to playing competing and having a better game. I wouldn't expect any different.

Despite the precarious injury situation at key positions, Coughlin's expectations of his team this weekend are no different now than they were earlier in the season.

"I expect us to prepare well and to go up (to Detroit) with the idea of competing and doing the best we possibly can, (and) find a way to win."

--One of the bright spots to emerge for the Giants this season has been the play of rookie defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, their second-round draft pick this year.

"It took a while to get him active, but he's made some progress," said Coughlin.

Hankins, who has played in nine games this season, has accumulated 14 tackles, two tackles for a loss, and two quarterback hits.

"He had a couple of good plays the other day. He's a young guy who's coming along and learning how to play in this league," said Coughlin of the 6-2, 320-pound Hankins.

"He made some errors but he did make a couple of nice aggressive plays."

Hankins admitted that it was tough waiting his turn to play, but in retrospect, he's glad that his rookie year has unfolded the way it has.

"We have a great defensive line, and I learned a lot by watching them. Once I got my chance to go out there and play, I kind of knew what to do, how to react and that really helped benefit me on the field."

One of the biggest lessons Hankins said he learned was to curb his anxiousness.

"I would say being patient on the field, not always trying to make a play or jumpy a snap," he said. "Do your job and the plays you have to make will come to you."

With the plays starting to come to him, Hankins, who usually lines up next to Mike Patterson in the defensive interior rotation, said the next step is for him to continue to take advantage of his opportunities.

"I just want to show the coaching staff that I know the plays, that they can have confidence to put me out there to do my job," he said. "If I can just finish out the season doing that, then I feel like maybe they'll be more confident in me going into next year."

--Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul continues to be conflicted over his desire to play again this season and his desire to avoid the risk of needing surgery on his ailing shoulder.

"At the end of the day, I'm not a quitter," Pierre-Paul said. "I'm going to try my best to be out there with my teammates."

At the same time, Pierre-Paul knows that he has to be smart with his injury because he believes that if he stays the course and continues to rehab his injury, he will avoid the need for surgery.

"I think I'm doing pretty good in my rehabbing and just getting better on that injury," he said. "I don't really want to have surgery unless it's called for it. I think with me rehabbing and staying on schedule, that I won't need surgery."

Pierre-Paul, who admitted that if he played again and made his shoulder worse that surgery would then become a necessity, said that he has a full range of motion in his ailing joint, but that he doesn't have the full strength necessary to push and fight blockers.

"I can't go out there and defend myself so if I can't do that, then there's no reason for me to be out there playing," he said. "I play defense and I deliver a blow.

"I'm not going to put myself in a predicament where I go out there and then I have my teammates looking at me crazy. If you're not well enough to play, you should be on the sideline. I'm trying to get back out there though.

--RB Kendall Gaskins, who was previously with the Bills, was signed to the Giants practice squad. Gaskins had worked out for the Giants several weeks ago.

--LG James Brewer (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday, but could be one of the players that head coach Tom Coughlin said he was hopeful of having later in the week.

--WR Victor Cruz (concussion/knee) did not practice on Wednesday and is not expected to play on Sunday.

--RG David Diehl (knee) was held out of practice on Wednesday, but will reportedly try to work on Thursday. Diehl said he experienced some swelling in his knee last week, but didn't think he'd have to miss Sunday's game.

--RB Peyton Hillis (concussion) was not present at Wednesday's practice, as he has not passed the concussion protocol. His status for Sunday is unknown at this point.

--DT Cullen Jenkins (shin/quad) didn't practice on Wednesday, but he could be back in the lineup on Thursday. Jenkins is going on his second week with this injury and was able to play last week.

--WR Jerrel Jernigan (knee) did not work on Wednesday. His status for Sunday is a question mark.

--CB Trumaine McBride (groin) did not practice on Wednesday, but could be back later in the week on a limited basis. McBride has been playing with a groin injury for several weeks now.

--DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday and is unlikely to play on Sunday.

--S Cooper Taylor (hamstring) is not expected to practice or play this week.

--CB Terrell Thomas (knee) did not practice Wednesday but is expected to work in a limited basis on Thursday and Friday.

SERIES HISTORY: 41st regular-season meeting. Lions lead series, 20-19-1. New York is 8-13-1 at Detroit, but have won two out of the last three games during the Tom Coughlin era, including the last two in a row. The two teams last met on Oct. 17, 2010, a 28-20 Giants' win in at MetLife Stadium. The Lions have outscored the Giants in regular-season games 672-588.

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