“I don’t plan on having any more setbacks,” Thomas said. “You just got to give it time. Let it heal.”
In a training camp practice on July 29, Thomas suffered what the Giants described simply as a “re-injury” to his twice surgically-repaired right anterior cruciate ligament. He missed the entire 2011 season after hurting his knee in a preseason game on Aug. 22. Three doctors have examined the knee and concurred that rehabilitation is the first course of action.
How would Thomas describe his latest injury?
“Aggravated,” he said. “That’s the best way to put it. The ACL is so simple. It’s either working or it’s not. Mine is still working. Thank God. Something happened which caused it to swell. They thought it might have been a bone bruise or…who knows what it could have been. I guess the basic definition is that I aggravated it.”
On Monday, coach Tom Coughlin announced that Thomas would return to the Giants’ training camp at the University at Albany to resume his rehab. He agreed the news was a “best-case scenario” after the earlier fears that Thomas had suffered a serious injury.
Thomas can’t put a precise timetable on his return to the field, but he’s not going to jeopardize the remainder of the season or his long-term future by trying to rush back for the September 5 season opener vs. Dallas.
“It’s all dependent on my leg,” Thomas said. “I think it’s something that can be three weeks or something that can be eight weeks, to be honest with you. I think that the Giants are going to be very cautious. I think it’s smart, being that I re-aggravated it. I think the big picture is the long run – the rest of the season, getting to the playoffs and not starting Week 1.”
His goal in rehab is nothing more complicated than strengthening the knee.
“Pretty much, just letting it scar up,” Thomas said. “Letting it tighten back up and just kind of letting Mother Nature take place. My leg is still strong, but it’s time to take a couple of steps back in the rehab and build up on top of that.”
When Thomas is healthy he is a productive and valuable player. He led the Giants in tackles, interceptions and passes defensed in both 2009 and 2010. Aaron Ross stepped in as the starter when Thomas went down last year, but he now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars – who the Giants will visit in the preseason opener on Friday night. Since Thomas was again forced off the field,
Thomas’ knee issue was aggravated in a routine seven-on-seven passing drill. He left the field and immediately iced the knee, but initially thought the injury was not serious.
“When it first happened, it just felt weird,” he said. “I went through walkthroughs that day. I jogged around and cut on it. I felt fine. Woke up, had a little swelling. Let’s get an MRI. The MRI came out negative. But obviously when they played with it a little bit, it felt a little bit different. I got on the plane, it swelled up a little bit. The next morning, the swelling went down. Going forth, I don’t have any swelling right now and I never had pain and that’s weird if you really did some damage to your knee.”
Thomas said he felt, “Frustration, but I didn’t give up. My knee felt great and I didn’t think it was too severe. The way I went down was something I’ve been training for to make sure I was prepared for this day. It was just bad timing, but thank God the doctors agreed to clear me. I’m able to come back and rehab to have a chance at this season.”
The Giants initially said Thomas could possibly undergo arthroscopic surgery to learn the extent of the injury. But after examinations by Dr. Russell Warren (the team physician), Dr. Arthur Ting (who operated on Thomas last September 23) and Dr. James Andrews (a renowned orthopedist) it was determined that surgery was not necessary.
When Thomas left Albany to travel to California and then Florida for additional opinions, the outlook seemed grim. But Thomas departed with hope.
“I stayed positive and kept my faith strong,” he said. “I never got mad. Last year, I was mad. I was upset. I was just frustrated. I prepared for this moment. I wanted to come to training camp and start playing football again. Work on my techniques. Show my teammates and myself that the Giants made the right choice and they still have. I still have the opportunity. I thank God for giving me another opportunity and I’m just happy to be back.”
And the Giants are happy to have him.