“Without a doubt,” Thomas said today. “I might be emotional, but I’m not nervous at all.”
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“She’s always been my biggest fan and biggest supporter,” Thomas said. “She’s always taught me that I can do everything through Christ, who strengthens me, never stops believing, Through all my injuries, she’s been there. She’s always been right there supporting me so this is big, just as big for her as it if for me.”
That’s open to debate, but the fact that it will be a big night for Thomas is not. He spent the first 10 days of training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Since being activated, Thomas has received extensive practice time at the nickel corner. He did not play in the first two preseason games, so Saturday he will make his long-awaited return.
“(I am) excited, to say the least,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be fun, it was good to get out here during training camp to get my confidence back and I think that’s a great opponent to get going. The third game is a big game for the ones, so it will be a good test for me.
“At the end of the day, I just want to play football. Whatever comes next, I’m ready for. That’s what I’ve learned over this journey these last two years. I worked my butt off this last year to get back after this third ACL and this will be a big moment for me. I’ve got to go out and prove (to) myself that I can play against top competition. I think the Jets give me a great opportunity to do that.”
Thomas said the hamstring injury he suffered at the start of training camp might have been a blessing in disguise.
“Maybe I would have gotten in that second game, but I think this is a perfect opportunity for me to get out there,” Thomas said. “I got a solid two weeks of practice in, feel real confident, made some plays and I think this is right on schedule. Barely 11 months, post-surgery, coming off my second ACL, so I think it was smart to take a little more time, make sure the knee was steady and ready to go.”
Coach Tom Coughlin isn’t certain how many snaps Thomas will get in the game.
“We’ll give him certainly enough, but we won’t overdo it,” Coughlin said. Asked what he wants to see from Thomas, Coughlin said, “He’s got to come back and practice each day and come back and play in the game, play well, build his own confidence and come out of the game feeling good about where he is and I’m sure if that’s the case, we’re all going to feel that way. I have liked what I’ve seen.”
Thomas was considered one of the NFL’s rising stars at cornerback when he was injured in 2011. He led the Giants in tackles, interceptions and passes defensed in each of the previous two seasons. Justin Tuck predicted Thomas would be a Pro Bowler that year.
Two knee surgeries later, the former second-round draft choice has the same mindset as an untested free agent.
“I have to go out there and perform,” said Thomas, part of a strong group of corners that includes Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Aaron Ross and Jayron Hosley. “I haven’t made the team yet. This is the first time that I’ve been in the position to have to make the team and it’s exciting. It’s actually driven me and motivated me to keep pushing, to work through practice and to keep getting better, to show the coaches, the G.M., the owner, whatever I have to do to prove to these guys that I can still play football. I’m just blessed to have another opportunity to go out there and play football again after two years.”
Two years away from the game has helped Thomas appreciate even the most mundane details of being a football player.
“I’m just excited to pack my bag,” Thomas said. “I haven’t done that in a long time, pick out what cleats I’m going to put in there, see my jersey back on those shoulder pads before the game. It’s a long time coming. A lot of people have been rooting for me. It’s a big day for me and my family, who supported me throughout the whole process, the Giants and for myself. I think it speaks volume for a man of faith to overcome anything and I’m just excited to get out there.
“It’s been a long journey, a long, hard one. I’ve been through a lot, endured a lot and I think this is a true testament to my faith, to my family, to the fans and just to football, what you sacrifice for this game. So I think it’s definitely going to be emotional.”
That’s true for everyone in Thomas’ family.