On September 16, Nicks tormented the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 10 receptions for 199 yards and a touchdown, a performance that helped the Giants rally from an 11-point deficit to win and earned him the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award. But Nicks suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss the next three games and severely curtailed his effectiveness for the remainder of the season. He did not catch a pass in either of the final two games and finished the year with 53 receptions for 692 yards and a career-low three touchdowns.
Nicks might have stayed out longer to be more effective later, but he was eager to return to the field and was cleared to do so by the team’s medical staff. Today, as the 2012 Giants gathered for the final time after a season-ending victory over Philadelphia, Nicks said he will not second-guess himself.
“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “It happened. I played through it. We didn’t get to the playoffs. It wasn’t the season that we wanted, but things happen and I just look forward to coming back strong.”
In his four seasons with the Giants, Nicks has never played a full 16-game season (he played 15 games, plus four postseason games, in 2011). But this injury was different.
“Dealing with injuries in the past, I always had a knack for coming back fast,” said Nicks, who missed most of training camp after undergoing offseason foot surgery. “I felt like I tried. It got better and lightened up as the year went on, but I never quite got back to myself.
“I didn’t make it worse (by playing). It was just a situation where I was just gutting it out and I wanted to play for the team and for myself. It was a situation where I felt like if I was sitting, I would have been miserable, so I felt like if I was just out there trying to give it whatever I had, everything would work out.”
Tom Coughlin was asked if he would alter his decision to have Nicks play through the injury.
“I just discussed it with Hakeem,” Coughlin said. “A few weeks ago, Doctor (Russell) Warren (the team physician) was involved in the discussion about those kinds of situations. In the first place, you love Hakeem. He is an incredible competitor. No matter what happens, he’s not going...he’s had a lot of things that have been an issue for him, medically. He’s had a foot, he’s had a knee, but the thing that you have to remember is he’s a tremendous competitor, he wants to compete and he wants to play. When you speak to a group of individuals, and you talk about having 53 people on your team, when you do have an injury, you’ve got to play through it. Well, he’s a tremendous example of a guy that wants to play through it, and wants to play through it despite that fact, and you love that about him. Was he able to play at the level that if he didn’t have the injury he could play at? No. But he believes he can play, and he believes he can be a huge part of it.”
Nicks seldom practiced and in the last two weeks both
“Hakeem had great toughness, wanted to be out there,” Manning said. “But, since really week three, not having him able to practice, and be at full speed and work on things, it’s tough. I think he’ll tell you that he wanted to be out there, and he was hurt, playing hurt, and he just wasn’t quite the same playmaker that we have become used to when he can play.
“So I told him that we have to get him healthy. I know it’s frustrating for him, but that’s football. You’re going to have injuries, and you kind of hope that if you get an injury, you take a few weeks, you get healed up, and come back. It just wasn’t that simple this year, and it obviously can affect an offense when one of your number one receivers is not playing to the level that we know he can, because of an injury.”
Nicks said no decision has been made regarding whether he will have surgery.
But Tuck expressed confidence he will be around not only next year, but in the season beyond that.
“I’m never the type of guy that lacks confidence in myself,” Tuck said. “I’ll be the first to tell you that my performance this year was nowhere near what I envisioned for myself after coming into training camp. And for whatever reason that was, it didn’t happen for me this year. You still go out there and try your best to help this football team win games, but I am disappointed in my play this year.”
Tuck said he expects to improve next year – and for several seasons beyond that.
“I’ll be very frank and honest in saying this – I plan on being here a very long time,” Tuck said. “And that’s pretty much all I have to say about it.”
General manager Jerry Reese believes Tuck still has much to contribute.
“Justin has been a good player for a long time for us,” Reese said. “Obviously, he didn’t play as good as he wanted to play and as good as we wanted him to play, but it’s not just Justin. I don’t think you single anybody out. Here with the Giants, we win as a team and we lose as a team. You can’t single any one player out. I know you’re asking individually about Justin, but he wanted to play better, we wanted him to play better, he’s not getting any younger, but I think he’s got a lot of tread left on his tires and we expect him to come back and be the Justin Tuck we know.”
*Manning was still unable to hide his disappointment at missing the postseason. He is particularly bothered that the Giants were unable to hold a 2½-game lead in the NFC East.
Asked if one loss particularly bothered him, Manning quickly cited the 17-16 loss in Washington on December 3.
“I thought, offensively, we played pretty well,” Manning said. “Moved the ball, settled for field goals, and the last minute, we had two opportunities late in the game to get a score, get points and take the lead. We weren’t able to do it. I think just that game, it was a big game at Washington. They were playing well, they were hot, the race in the division was getting tight, and we had an opportunity that we weren’t able to pull off, even though we played pretty well.”
“I would love to be back,” said Blackburn, who has spent his entire eight-year career with the Giants. “I’ve had conversations with the coaches and I just talked to Jerry Reese and hopefully we can get things figured out and get back here. I’d love to. Hopefully they want me back and we’ll figure it out when the time comes.”
*Washington’s victory over Dallas Sunday night clinched a second-place NFC East finish for Giants and finalized their 2013 opponents.
In addition to home-and-home series with division rivals Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, the Giants will host Green Bay, Minnesota, Seattle, Denver and Oakland. That group includes five 2012 playoff teams – the Redskins, Packers, Vikings, Seahawks and Broncos.
The Giants-Denver game will be the third regular-season meeting between Eli and Peyton Manning. Peyton won the first two, when he was with the Indianapolis Colts.
In addition to their division foes, the Giants’ opponents on the road will include
Chicago, Detroit, Carolina, Kansas City and San Diego.
*The Giants own the 19th selection in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
*The Giants’ victory over Philadelphia was the 151st regular-season triumph of Tom Coughlin’s career. That ties him with former Giants coach and Hall of Famer Steve Owen for 16th place on the NFL’s career list.
Those two coaches are at the top of the Giants list for career victories, Owen with 151 and Coughlin with 83.
*With Andy Reid’s firing in Philadelphia, Coughlin is the longest-tenured coach in the NFC East. Coughlin has been the Giants’ coach since 2004. Dallas’ Jason Garrett and Washington’s Mike Shanahan joined their teams in 2010.
Coughlin has the NFL’s third-longest head coaching tenure with one team, behind New England’s Bill Belichick and Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis.