It's the next man up on the Giants' offensive line, and fortunately for the team, that man has been there for most of the last 10 seasons.
Sean Locklear suffered a season-ending knee injury playing right tackle Monday night in the Giants' 17-16 loss to the Redskins in Washington. He will be replaced in the next game, Sunday at home vs. New Orleans, by David Diehl, who had started the previous three games before hurting his shoulder two weeks ago vs. Green Bay. Locklear had started the six games prior to that stretch. Diehl was in the lineup for the season's first two games (which Locklear started at left tackle) before suffering a knee injury that forced him to miss three games.
Now it's Diehl's turn again to step into the starting lineup.
"I'm feeling the best I've felt all season," Diehl said. "I'm just excited to get out there and play football and feel good, feel ready to play and help our football team win games. We've got a four-game stretch and it starts with this weekend."
Locklear was hurt with 4:56 remaining in the game Monday, on a three-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw, who was brought down by Madieu Williams' illegal horse-collar tackle, which gave the Giants another 15 yards. Locklear was hit from behind and his knee bent awkwardly. He suffered damage that will require surgery.
"I was playing right next to him, so I heard him," guard Chris Snee said. "You could tell right away (the injury was serious).
"You have to feel for Sean. That's a significant injury that he has and hopefully one he's able to come back from. It's the second time in three years now I've had to hear one of my linemen go down with a very serious injury (Rich Seubert dislocated his knee in the 2010 season finale, also in Washington – it was the last game of his career)."
But the NFL marches on and the Giants must play a critical game in four days with their old/new offensive line.
"We're lucky to have David," Snee said.
Indeed they are. Not every NFL team can replace an injured lineman this late in the season with a player who has started 145 games, plus played four this season as a reserve. In his 10 years with the Giants, Diehl's versatility and durability have made him one of the team's most indispensable linemen. He has started full seasons at every line position but center.
In 2011, he started the first 10 games at left guard. When Will Beatty's season ended prematurely because of eye surgery, Diehl stepped over to tackle. This year, Beatty returned and Kareem McKenzie wasn't re-signed, so Diehl returned to right tackle, where he played in 2004.
Last week, Diehl played on special teams until Locklear went down.
"Sean worked all week – he earned the right to start, which I knew going in," Diehl said. "They told me and said just to be ready at any position, whether it be guard or tackle, to step in and play. Usually when that happens, something happens. Unfortunately, Sean hurting his knee, that's a blow to all of us. He's a guy that's worked extremely hard. He came in here since the offseason and fit right in with our offensive line. You never want one of your guys to fall and go down. But I'm ready to step up and feeling great and I'm ready to play."
Diehl started the first 120 regular-season games and seven postseason games of his career before hip and hamstring injuries forced him to miss four games in 2010. He returned to finish that season and last year started all 20 regular-season and postseason games.
This season, Diehl missed three more games and played as a reserve in four others. That didn't sit well with a player who takes great pride in lining up at the start of every game. Diehl will have a little added incentive when the Giants face the Saints Sunday.
"I played in so many games, you never want to sit back and be a spectator and doing that stuff," Diehl said. "Like I said, last week, coming back for the last practice, Sean earned his right to start, he deserved to start. It's a role that I'll never get used to. When your opportunity comes back, you come back, and you come back strong. Most importantly, you play as best as you can to secure it.
"Sitting out and missing games due to injury, I never like that and I'm never going to get used to that regardless of what the situation and the circumstances are. I'm excited to get back on the football field and play. I've worked extremely hard to get to now and I'm excited to just be back and be back healthy and ready to go and I need to play my best football, just like all of us. We need to be playing our best football come this Sunday."
As a veteran with all those games under his belt, Diehl believes he can lead the way.
*Four players did not participate in a practice that Tom Coughlin called a "glorified jog-through." Those sitting out were running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), safety Kenny Phillips (knee), tight end Travis Beckum (knee) and safety Tyler Sash (hamstring).
Three linebackers were listed as limited: Michael Boley (shoulder), Chase Blackburn (ankle) and
Jacquian Williams (knee).
Center David Baas (shoulder), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (back) and wide receiver Domenik Hixon (ankle) practiced fully.
*The Giants formally placed Locklear on injured reserve Wednesday. Offensive lineman Selvish Capers was signed off the practice squad to replace him on the roster. Capers was first added to the roster on November 21. He was inactive for the Green Bay game, waived two days later and re-signed to the practice squad last week. Capers' spot on the practice squad was taken by offensive lineman Paul Fenaroli of Stony Brook.