Prince Amukamara participated in the team portion of a Giants practice for the first time today, 88 days after the team's initial training camp practice. He was limited to some scout team snaps and might not get a uniform when the Giants return to action Sunday at home against Miami. But it was a significant threshold to cross for the first-round draft choice and his team, who are both eager to see Amukamara make his NFL debut.
"The drills felt good but in show team, I am just trying to catch up to speed," Amukamara said. "The speed was a bit fast so I have to get used to that.
"Physically, I am just trying to get the timing down. I haven't lined up across from someone in a couple months, so I am just trying to get acclimated to that speed."
Amukamara was the 19th overall selection in the draft after a senior season at Nebraska in which he was a unanimous All-America selection and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He didn't sign his contract and report until Aug. 5, a week after his teammates came together. The next day, he broke his foot in an individual drill early in his first practice. Amukamara underwent surgery and has since been sidelined.
For the last month or so, Amukamara has been working with the team's medical staff to get back in condition and after practice with secondary/cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta to cover fundamentals. But today was his first-ever NFL practice in a team setting.
"He's working his way back in there," said seven-year veteran corner Corey Webster. "We don't want to do anything too fast so he can mess up anything, but he's looking good. He's doing everything that the coaches and trainers ask him to do. So hopefully we can get him back and he can be 110 percent out there."
Amukamara said he was limited to four plays during each period for the scout team defense, which works against the starting offense. When the Giants' defense was on the field, he studied Webster and Aaron Ross and the schemes and listened for the calls.
He said his conditioning is about as good as can be expected after more than 2½ months of inactivity.
"I think my wind was good," Amukamara said. "Running and sweating are kind of new. I wasn't dehydrated, I wasn't tired, so I think it's good. I did a lot of work in the training room. The trainers got me prepared.
"I wouldn't say (the foot is pain-free). I am sure I am going to feel pain in a little bit. Right now, it just gets sore after I do activity, but that soreness is going away week-by-week. I am just progressing."
Amukamara has to get accustomed to hitting again. He has not played in a game since Dec. 30, when the Cornhuskers lost to Washington in the Holiday Bowl. He was credited with one unassisted tackle in that game. He had eight solo tackles in the conference championship game against Oklahoma on Dec. 4, so his last significant contact was almost 11 months ago.
Many cornerbacks are happy to cover receivers, knock down passes and try to pad their interception totals. But Amukamara enjoys playing a more physical game.
"My mentality didn't change," he said. "I'm definitely a physical corner and I love hitting. I still have that mentality where I know I'm going to hit. I'm not going to shy away from contact. But whether I'm physically used to it, I'm not sure. It might sting a little bit. I just have to break into it."
He would have been able to do that in practice at Nebraska, where the workouts were tough and physical. But in the NFL, where the season is longer and the rosters are smaller, practice contact is all but prohibited during the season.
"We were always hitting (in college)," Amukamara said. "It's just so much different than it is in the NFL. But I understand that, because it's a longer season in the NFL. You have to keep the guys safe. But anytime we're allowed to get a little bit physical, especially in press (coverage), I'll take advantage."
The Giants are eager to see him finally hit the field – and an opponent.
*Wide receiver Ramses Barden practiced again today and is hopeful of suiting up for the first time this season against the Dolphins. Barden has been on the Reserve/PUP list because of the fractured ankle he suffered last Nov. 14. He practiced for the first time Monday. The Giants have three weeks to decide whether or not to activate Barden.
*The Giants healed up during their bye week exactly as Tom Coughlin hoped they would, as every player on the roster practiced, a first for the 2011 season.
"I hope we have enough uniforms for these guys," Coughlin said during his pre-practice news conference.
In addition to Amukamara, five other players were limited in practice: running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), defensive ends Justin Tuck (groin/neck) and Osi Umenyiora (knee), linebacker Michael Boley (knee) and fullback Henry Hynoski (neck).
Guard Chris Snee, who sat out the Giants' 27-24 pre-bye victory over Buffalo on Oct. 16 with a concussion suffered the week before vs. Seattle, practiced fully. He passed all the required medical tests early last week and worked on Monday.
*The Dolphins have a significant Giants presence on their coaching staff. Assistant wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard was the Giants' first-round draft choice in 1997 and is the fifth-leading receiver in franchise history with 368 catches. He left the Giants following the 2004 season and signed a one-day contract to retire as a Giant in 2010. Tight ends coach Dan Campbell played that position for the Giants from 1999-2002. Two former Giants defensive coordinators work for Miami. Mike Nolan, who held that position with the Giants from 1993-96, is the Dolphins' defensive coordinator. And Bill Sheridan, the Giants' coordinator in 2009, is Miami's linebackers coach.
Miami head coach Tony Sparano was Tom Coughlin's linebackers coach in Jacksonville in 2002.
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