Help will arrive for both the front and back of the Giants' defense if Prince Amukamara and Marvin Austin have their way this week.
Amukamara and Austin, the Giants' top two draft choices in 2011, both missed the team's season-opening loss to Dallas last week, the former with a high ankle sprain, the latter with a back issue. But the cornerback and defensive tackle hope to be on the field Sunday, when the Giants will try to pick up win No. 1 this season at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I'm very optimistic," Amukamara said.
"I need to be out there performing and showing the organization that I appreciate them picking me," Austin said. "For myself, the most important thing is going out there and being healthy and trying to go out there and help my brothers out."
Amukamara was hurt in the Giants' preseason game vs. Chicago on Aug. 24. He wore a protective boot for a few days and has since made steady progress. Yesterday, when his teammates were off, Amukamara came to the Timex Performance Center to test his ankle. "I did striders and then I did a cone-drill," Amukamara said. "I planted and back-pedaled and stuff like that.
"I feel good. I'm not running how I'm used to, but I still feel good out there. I'm just taking it day by day."
After that test, the Giants' athletic trainers permitted Amukamara to practice today.
"Prince came out and did some work," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Hopefully, he'll be fine. We'll see how he is tomorrow."
Terrell Thomas is out for the season and with Amukamara sidelined, Michael Coe made his first NFL start vs. Dallas. Coe aggravated a hamstring injury during the game. Next up on the depth chart was Justin Tryon.
Given that situation, Amukamara was asked if he feels a sense of urgency to get back on the field.
"There's always a sense of urgency in my head, just trying to get back on the field," he said. "But of course just with our cornerback situation and with guys going down, that does put pressure on me to try to get back on the field that much more. But I'm doing everything I can. If there was a magic pill, I'd take it."
Austin hurt his back in the preseason opener in Jacksonville a month ago today. With Chris Canty on the physically unable to perform list, the Giants could also use a healthy body and a productive player at defensive tackle. Although Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph each had a sack vs. the Cowboys, Coughlin said the tackles were "okay" in the game. Austin practiced today, but Coughlin wouldn't commit to him playing against the Bucs.
"We'll see," Coughlin said. "I think how he comes back tomorrow, we'll know a little better."
If Austin does play, it will be the first regular season game of his career. He missed his entire rookie season after tearing a pectoral muscle in the preseason.
"It's big," Austin said. "Just trying to play smart ball. Just go out there, do my assignments, read my keys and let everything happen and the play may grant me….it will come out. As long as I'm doing my job within the defense, within the scheme, I should be okay."
*Coe believes he will be ready to play on Sunday.
"I feel pretty good about going in and practicing on Wednesday and Thursday, so I'm pretty hopeful for that," Coe said. "I ran about 75-80 percent today. I was able to do everything and backpedal and change and do some of those things, so I feel good about it."
*Will Beatty missed the entire preseason with a back injury and Sean Locklear started at left tackle in his place in the opener. Beatty said he has been taking first-team reps in practice and hopes to start vs. Tampa Bay.
"I know I can handle it," Beatty said. "It's my job. We had the preseason. They said they were going to rest me, so that was my timetable to be ready for the first game and it just so happened that they didn't need to use me. But I'm still preparing myself for me starting the game.
"The last two weeks, I had no problems, no setbacks. We had that three-day break. Felt good coming in today. They still had me rotating with the ones. I took my full reps, but I took with ones and I then took them with twos, so it's not like I'm limited at practice. It's just bringing me back."
Coughlin is keeping his options open regarding Beatty.
"We're moving along, trying to get more and more each day," Coughlin said. "He's done pretty well with what we've asked him to do. We'll see how it goes. He has to make up for a lot of lost time."
*Safety Kenny Phillips missed practice today with a sore back, but both he and Coughlin said Phillips will practice Wednesday.
"It's just precaution - nothing serious," Phillips said. "No major injuries, nothing like that. Just trying to be smart. I'll be back Wednesday for sure."
*Defensive end and captain Justin Tuck said the 10-day layoff between games is tough after loss.
"I haven't slept well, so I think we all are itching to get back on the field," Tuck said. "(We) definitely got a lot of work to do on the practice field. Had a great practice today as far as turning the page. We've been in this situation before.
"I think every guy in this locker room is disgusted with how we played and wants to come out and have a better showing considering that Tampa is coming off a great win against Carolina. That team is fired up. That team is going to have a lot of confidence. Both of their coordinators (former Giants assistants Mike Sullivan and Bill Sheridan) know this football team very well, so we know they're going to have some plans to counteract what we do and I think it's going to be a great football game. It's going to be another great test for us to see where we are and hopefully we can find our rhythm and get a win at home."