The Giants today got a jump on the NFL free agency signing period by retaining cornerback Terrell Thomas, who spent the entire 2011 season on injured reserve.
Thomas, 27, was considered a rising star at cornerback before tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in a preseason victory over Chicago on Aug. 22. He missed the regular season and the four-game playoff run that culminated in a victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI.
"I definitely wanted to come back here – this is home for me," Thomas said after signing his contract. "Coming off an injury, it's better to come back to the same team – you know the personnel and the staff and they know you. You know the defense. My first choice was here, but I did open my eyes a little bit to free agency in case the Giants didn't re-sign me. So I'm happy to be back.
"The talks started immediately. They told me right when the Super Bowl was over they'd start talking about a contract and that's exactly what happened. They went back and forth with my agent, as any contract negotiation would. I think we agreed on the numbers by Saturday night or Sunday morning. Then it was just going over some language in the contract."
In 2009 and 2010, Thomas started every game at right cornerback and twice led the team in tackles, interceptions and passes defensed. He was credited with 101 tackles, had five interceptions and totaled 40 passes defensed in those two seasons. Following his injury this past preseason, Thomas was replaced in the starting lineup by Aaron Ross.
Thomas, 6-0 and 191 pounds, joined the Giants as a second-round draft choice in 2008 from USC (where he suffered torn ligaments in his right knee in 2005). After one season as a reserve and special teams standout, he moved into the starting lineup as a pro sophomore.
In training camp last year, defensive end and captain Justin Tuck predicted Thomas would be a 2011 Pro Bowler. But Thomas was hurt with just 22 seconds remaining in the first half against Chicago. He was rushing Bears quarterback Jay Cutler when he collided with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. After Thomas was examined on the MetLife Stadium turf by the Giants medical staff, he walked off the field under his own power. The Giants soon announced that Thomas had torn his knee ligament.
Thomas has worked tirelessly in rehabilitation to strengthen his knee and expects to be at full strength for the start of training camp.
"My knee feels great," Thomas said. "I'm sprinting – almost – backpedaling, cutting, jumping, lunging, doing all that stuff. So now the fun starts in the rehab process, which is opening up to everything."
Thomas is uncertain how much he will participate in the spring drills and minicamp.
"There's no rush for me," he said. "I'm proven here. They know who I am and what I can do on the field. There's no rush for me to get out on the field. My biggest thing is to let my knee heal 100 percent and come training camp and the season I have no setbacks or missed practices because of swelling. But I'll definitely get out there and maybe do some individual drills.
"The silver lining in getting hurt so early is that I have a full year to get my knee back. At the same time, signing back with the same team and being a proven starter, they're not anxious to get me out there to see what I can do. It's going to be a slow-developing thing. As I've said all along, I'll be ready for Week 1."