EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's first season with the Giants has been marked more by his pain than his play. The outstanding cornerback who was one of the team's marquee free agent additions has battled a series of injuries that have at times forced him off the field and reduced his effectiveness on it.
But DRC remains philosophical and optimistic.
"Any time you get an opportunity to play, you just go out there and play," Rodgers-Cromartie said this week. "In football, things don't always go your way. You've just got to keep fighting."
The Giants are counting on DRC to put up a fight on Sunday. The Dallas Cowboys will visit MetLife Stadium, not only with the league's leading rusher in DeMarco Murray, but one of its top receivers in Dez Bryant. When the teams met last month in Dallas, DRC was limited to approximately 15 snaps. Prince Amukamara was assigned the primary responsibility of covering Bryant, who caught nine passes for 151 yards.
Amukamara is now on injured reserve after undergoing surgery to repair a torn biceps. So the Giants will turn to Rodgers-Cromartie to do what they hoped for when he signed – limit of the catches and impact of one of the league's finest wideouts.
"When you've got a dude of that caliber and he's got that dog in him, you've got to have kind of a nasty attitude going against him," said DRC, a seven-year veteran. "There's going to be a lot of trash talk. You know him, he's a guy that's very animated. He catches passes, he does this and that. Any time, as a corner, you get called on like that and they get up and do their little dances, it's not a good feeling."
Rodgers-Cromartie looks forward to matching wits with Bryant, in part due to his improved health. Though he is still listed on the injury report because of back and hamstring issues, he practiced fully all week and is listed as probable for the game.
"Feeling a lot better," he said. "It's one of those things that you've just got to play through, rest a little bit, take a few plays off here in practice, but the main thing is just to continue to go out there and work."
Those injuries have forced DRC to spend hours in the trainer's room and curtailed his playing time and perhaps his ability to impose his will on opposing receivers. Rodgers-Cromartie has just one interception, though he is second on the team with 10 passes defensed.
"I think he is disappointed," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He would like to obviously feel good and play injury-free, but that hasn't happened. So we have made as many adjustments as we possibly can. We continue to put him out there thinking this could be a day he is able to play the way he is capable of doing and staying out on the field. So we will keep trying that. His attitude has been good; he has tried everything to be able to do that."
In the last two months, DRC has sometimes removed himself from games to give his body a brief respite.
"We don't sub him in and out," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "It's strictly health-related…. We never know, because he sometimes is going along well and he will tighten up in the ballgame, and sometimes he needs a little bit of relief. We never know exactly how that situation will play out, but he is in condition."
"I push it as far as I can," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "When it starts bothering me, I just try to rest it a little bit and then get back out there."
The Giants will need DRC on the field as much as possible to match up with Bryant, whose 56 catches, 793 yards and eight touchdown receptions lead the Cowboys in all three categories by substantial margins.
"I think Dez is really playing great football," Fewell said. "He has gotten so much bigger and stronger over the years. His chemistry with Tony (Romo) has obviously gotten better. Yes, it does make it difficult to matchup without a full strength '21' (Rodgers-Cromartie). '21' has really done a good job of practicing and he has done a good job of trying to stay in the ballgame and play as much as he can possibly play. I am encouraged by what we see out of '21.'"
If Rodgers-Cromartie does have to leave the field, Chykie Brown could become a key player in his third game with the team since being claimed off waivers on Nov. 5.
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"I am very confident in Chykie Brown," Fewell said. "He has come in and he has done a nice job for us in the couple of weeks he has been here. Very good student in the classroom, does it with a smile, loves the challenge. I am very encouraged by what I see from him."
As confident as he is in Brown, Fewell would like to see DRC on the field as much as possible against a receiver with Bryant's skill set.
"He's a tough cover," DRC said. "One of the big guys that's good to the ball. Tony Romo's going to be elusive in the pocket, he's going to make things happen. You just have to cover him for as long as you can. It's definitely going to be a tough matchup."
- Tackle Justin Pugh (quad), linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) have been declared out of the game.
Pugh will miss a game for the first time in his two-year career. He has started all 26 games at right tackle since the Giants selected him on the first round of the 2013 draft.
"Starting the first 16 was definitely something that I wanted to keep going," Pugh said. "It was tough for me to miss one last week (he left the game early in the first half) and not be a part of that and feel like you can contribute and help this team. Watching from the sidelines is something I haven't experienced in the NFL. I experienced it my senior year at Syracuse when I was out for this first four games and it is tough. You have to go through it. Sometimes you can't control situations, so it is how you deal with those and overcome adversity. My job right now is to get healthy and get back so I can help this team win games."
- In addition to DRC, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz (toe) are probable.
Schwartz is expected to make his Giants debut Sunday after being activated off injured reserve this week. But Coughlin still will not reveal how the offensive line will be configured.
"I have my thoughts about it, but I am not prepared to share them yet," Coughlin said.
Schwartz said, "It has been a good week of practice and I am excited to play. I did everything (in practice), so there's not much more I can do. I felt pretty comfortable out there and I just have to give everything I have on Sunday."
- The Giants, FedEx and New York Cares will host their 19th annual Coat Drive on Sunday, when the Giants host the Cowboys in MetLife Stadium. Fans are encouraged to bring their new or gently worn coats to any of the New York Cares volunteers located at each stadium entrance.
All coats collected during the drive will be donated to New York Cares, a non-profit organization that meets pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service. The coats will then be distributed to men, women and children at homeless shelters, community organizations, centers for battered women and agencies serving senior citizens across the metropolitan area.
This is New York Cares' 26th annual Coat Drive. Since 1996, the New York Giants have hosted a coat drive at the stadium, helping to warm thousands of their neighbors throughout the cold winter months. Once again, the Giants ask their friends and fans to join the team as we assist our neighbors in need.