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CB Ross feels at home

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After spending his entire football life on the corner, he was switched to safety when the Giants needed healthy bodies there in 2009. His only start that season was at strong safety. Last year, he played the slot in the team's sub defenses.

With the Giants preparing for the start of another season, Ross has returned to familiar territory. The season-ending knee injury suffered by Terrell Thomas Monday night has thrust Ross back into the starting lineup – at cornerback, his natural position and where he started 15 games in 2008 and nine as a rookie the previous season.

"I feel like I'm finally back home – finally," Ross said.

Ross will man the right side, with Corey Webster on the left side. His previous professional starts were at left corner, including one in Washington last Jan. 2 when Webster was sidelined with a rib injury.

"I'm a corner," said Ross, who will get his first starting assignment of the year Saturday night, when the Giants host the Jets in MetLife Stadium. "That's what they drafted me as, that's where I know I can play. I'm really comfortable out there on the edge.

"(Playing the slot) is something you have to get used to. I never played it in college or anywhere."

Ross was back in his favored spot during training camp, when Thomas was moved inside in the nickel. Now he's there on a fulltime basis. Because of that Ross considers this a defining season in his career.

"I hadn't played corner in two years," Ross said. "I'm sure excited to be out there on the edge again. Even before Terrell went down I was excited they were giving me a chance to move from the nickel spot to the outside. I'm really pumped about it."

His joy is tempered by the sadness of seeing his good friend and teammate go down with a serious knee injury. 

"It is conflicting," Ross said. "I'm excited to be a starter, but I hate the way that it came. It's kind of a happy and a frowny face."

The irony is that Thomas became a starter because of an injury to Ross. In 2009, Ross hurt his hamstring in training camp and missed the entire preseason and the first nine regular season games. He returned for four games before aggravating the injury and missing the remainder of the season.

Last year he returned in good health, but in a preseason game on Aug. 28 against Pittsburgh, Ross hurt his foot, later diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, an irritation and swelling of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. Although he played in the final 15 games, Ross said the foot bothered him all season.

"It was lingering around the whole year. It actually stopped hurting this past March," Ross said. "It's been really tough, stressful. Then coming back after the hamstring injury I trained my butt off and I thought I was ready and I felt the way I felt this year and to have the injury happen against Pittsburgh last year in the preseason, that was another blow."

Ross has heard the whispers that he is injury prone.

"I've been injured for two years," he said. "They were freak injuries, but an injury is an injury. As long as I can stay away from it, that title will go away."

Ross has played well in the four weeks since the Giants reported to camp and he was noticeably active in Monday's 41-13 victory over Chicago. He had two tackles and two passes defensed, all of which were celebrated with fist pumps. In the first quarter, he knocked down a Jay Cutler pass intended for Devin Hester at the Giants' five-yard line, forcing the Bears to punt. On the first series of the third quarter, he tackled Marion Barber for a two-yard loss.

"I'm excited," Ross said. "Every play I get to play out there on the outside, like I said I haven't been out there for two years now, so being out there on the outside and being able to make plays and show coaches I can make plays, the fans, the media - it's exciting.

"Last year, I was really confident and ready to go, but unfortunately I had the foot injury that kind of set me back for the whole year, basically. This year was pretty much the same thing, I'm going into it with a positive attitude and my main thing right now is to stay healthy. It's been good so far, just have my fingers crossed that I can continue to stay healthy."

That is critical, both for the Giants' defense and Ross' career.

"As long as I'm healthy, I think everything else will fall into place," Ross said. "It's really not on my mind. The health is the main thing for me right now."

*Brian Williams, the cornerback the Giants signed yesterday, practiced for the first time today.

"I'm learning the system as fast as I can," said Williams, a 10-year veteran who played the previous two seasons for the Atlanta Falcons. "I think it will take a couple more days because I just need to learn the terminology and translate it to what I already know. Most defenses are the same so it shouldn't take too long."

Williams played all 16 games last year after his previous season was limited to five games because of a torn knee ligament. He has started all 16 games in a season three times.

"I have been a starter in the league my whole career," Williams said. "I went down with an ACL injury and I battled back from that last year. I would say that I am a very good player in this league and I have numbers to show it. It is not about me, I can contribute to this team in more than one way and I am just ready to get rolling."

Williams was watching the Giants-Bears game Monday night when Thomas was injured.

"It was a pretty ugly thing to see," Williams said. "To see another player go through that, you don't wish bad on anybody but that is a part of the game. I hope him all well."

In the NFL, one man's injury is invariably another's opportunity. Ross filled the starting assignment and Williams got a roster spot.

"That is kind of that situation I was falling into," Williams said. "Just waiting around to see what the younger guys can do and injuries. Like I said, I wish him all the best because I have had that injury myself so I know what he is going through. You hate to see a player go down like that, being a player."

*Discuss the matchup against on Twitter by using #GiantsGame 

*Kicker Lawrence Tynes, who suffered a quad injury in the preseason opener at Carolina on Aug. 13, said he is making progress but doesn't know when he will kick.

"To be 10 or 11 days out from where I was a week ago I feel really good," Tynes said. "I'm encouraged by it."

Could he possibly kick in next week's preseason finale in New England?

"I don't know," Tynes said. "I haven't planned on that. I haven't even kicked a ball yet. Today's Thursday, probably won't kick tomorrow. We'll see where I am through the weekend."

Asked if there is a timetable, Tynes said, "We haven't talked about it yet, but I'm sure there will be after the progress I've made today. We'll discuss that probably tomorrow morning."

Rhys Lloyd will kick against the Jets. He booted two field goals and five extra points vs. the Bears.

*When Matt Dodge ran onto the field for his first punt early in the game Monday night, he was loudly booed.

"It was pretty brutal," Dodge said.

 

Then he blasted a 63-yard punt and pinned the Bears deep in their own territory and the same fans cheered.

"First they were booing and then they were like, 'Oh, he did a good job,'" Dodge said. "It was pretty interesting. It didn't surprise me. I am getting kind of used to it. I just have to try to keep doing well and win them back over."

Dodge was frequently booed during an uneven rookie season. But he remained strong and optimistic, as he has during this summer's punting competition with veteran Steve Weatherford, who was signed on July 30.

"I think I have been doing pretty good," Dodge said. "I think last game I did alright. I didn't punt much throughout the game but I think in practice I have been getting better and better. I think it is pretty close and we are punting well. (Weatherford) punts well all the time, so I have to step my game up just to be on the same field as him. I just have to keep working hard."

Coach Tom Coughlin has gotten exactly what he wanted by bringing in a second punter.

"I like the competition," Coughlin said. "It has been very competitive and both guys have done quite well."

*Tight end Jake Ballard, known more for his blocking, made a spectacular catch in practice, reaching over and in front of safety Jarrard Tarrant to grab a pass from Ryan Perrilloux. "I never had a catch like that in a game," Ballard said…Hakeem Nicks warded off cornerback Joe Burnett to make a terrific one-handed catch on the left sideline…Michael Clayton made a nice grab of a pass that tipped off Daniel Coats.

*Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was among the players who missed practice today. "He had a knee in the back from the game and he is still sore," Coughlin said. "He really can't do what he has to do so they held him again." Coughlin does not know if Bradshaw will play in the Jets game.

*Also missing practice were running back Andre Brown (illness), wide receiver Duke Calhoun (hamstring), safety Brian Jackson (hip), quarterback Sage Rosenfels (illness/back), Tynes and wide receiver Domenik Hixon and linebacker Clint Sintim (scheduled day off).

*Coughlin said the starters will play the first half Saturday…Rosenfels will miss his second game in a row…Wide receiver Mario Manningham and tackle Will Beatty returned to practice after sitting out yesterday.

*MSG Varsity, Cablevision's 24/7 HD network dedicated to everything high school, announced that former Giants Amani Toomer and Roman Oben will comprise its broadcast team this season. Toomer and Oben will kick off their new duties as color analysts on Friday, Sept. 9 at 7

p.m., when MSG Varsity's "Friday Night Football" returns.

"We're thrilled to have Amani and Roman join MSG Varsity's first-class broadcast team and look forward to adding their expertise and perspective to our game coverage," said Michael Lardner, Executive Producer and Senior Vice President, MSG Varsity.

Toomer, who owns most of the Giants' career receptions records, will provide color commentary throughout the season across all regions for MSG Varsity. He was an All-American wide receiver at national powerhouse De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif. before starring at the University of Michigan.

"I'm honored to join MSG Varsity's broadcast team and look forward to calling the action for promising young football talent in the tri-state area," Toomer said. 

Oben, Toomer's roommate during their rookie season with the Giants in 1996, played 12 NFL seasons and started in over 90 percent of his games at left tackle for the Giants, Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was a key part of the Buccaneers Super Bowl XXXVII-winning season in 2002. A two-sport star (football and track & field) and an economics major at Louisville, Oben will work as an analyst for coverage of games in Westchester.

"MSG Varsity is delivering enormous value for high schools and I'm thrilled to help showcase the sportsmanship, determination and passion of the local athletes and coaches," Oben said.

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