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Giants welcome back WR Hakeem Nicks in return to practice


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Hakeem Nicks last played for the Giants on Dec. 29, 2013. He caught two passes for 50 yards, including a 35-yarder, in a 20-6 victory over the Washington Redskins.

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This coming Sunday – 23 months to the day since that game – Nicks will again wear a Giants uniform. And the opponent will again be Washington, as the 5-5 Giants attempt to maintain their lead in the NFC East over the 4-6 Redskins.

Nicks was signed last Tuesday, during the Giants' bye week, and will make his 2015 debut in FedEx Field.

"It feels good," Nicks said after practice today. "Feels good to be back in the building, definitely feels good to be back in the Giants uniform. Just want to continue to make plays and be a great football player, and a great team player."

Nicks, the Giants' first-round draft choice in 2009, caught 311 passes for 4,622 yards and 27 touchdowns in five seasons with the team. He last played for the Indianapolis Colts in 2014, when he had 38 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns while playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career.

Nicks is only 27 years old, an age when many players are in the midst of their best seasons. Perhaps that's why coach Tom Coughlin answered confidently when asked today if Nicks can be the same player he was during his first tenure with the Giants.

"To be honest with you, I don't think there's any question about that part of it," Coughlin said. "He is a young man and he does miss it, and he has worked very hard to stay in shape. We knew that when he worked out here the first time. Yeah, I'm hoping that's exactly what it will be."

What can Nicks deliver to the Giants?

"Veteran experience, catcher, outstanding hands, he'll work very hard," Coughlin said. "He's excited about being here. He's missed the opportunity to compete, so all of those things he'll bring to our practices and our games.

"Hakeem was the best player out there for right now, for the circumstances. Matter of fact, he was someone who we figured was in the sights of other clubs. Certainly he's been a Giant before, it's a different system. But we know the player, we know the young man and, quite frankly, he was, in our opinion, the best player out there."
Although the head coach, quarterback, locker room and uniform remain the same, Nicks has one significant change to master – a new offense. Today was his first practice working in the scheme Ben McAdoo brought to the Giants last season.

"I came in last week and got a head start," Nicks said. "Whatever they need me to do, I'm sure they'll sprinkle me in and get acclimated. But whatever the coaches need me to do, whatever they need me here to be, that's what I will be."

"He's energetic, he looked good," Coughlin said. "Kidded around with him a little bit. He did fine for a guy that's just trying to study and pick up the signals and all of those things. He did okay."

Nicks' trip around the learning curve has been accelerated by his familiarity with Eli Manning, from whom he has caught more passes (306) for more yards (4,538) than any other receiver.

"That helps a lot," Nicks said. "That helps a lot, that chemistry. We're definitely looking forward to it. Glad to be back in this position again, playing with Eli again. I look forward to everything that is about to come."

•  Cornerback Prince Amukamara, linebackers J.T. Thomas and Uani 'Unga, and tight end Larry Donnell – who missed five, three, two and two games, respectively, before the bye, all practiced.

"I feel like I'm ready to play four quarters of a football game," said Amukamara, who was sidelined with a partially torn pectoral muscle. "I feel 100 percent. I feel ready to go."

Coughlin said Amukamara's return will provide a significant boost to the defense.

"I think he can add a lot," Coughlin said. "He's a good player, and he's demonstrated that over the years. He'll hang in there, he's done a nice job of that. Everybody gets beat on a route once in a while, but he hangs in there and he keeps battling away. He has a strong physical presence, so I think there's no doubt he'll add tremendously."

•  Center Weston Richburg (ankle), guard Justin Pugh (concussion protocol) and defensive end Damontre Moore (hamstring) did not practice.

"I'm trying to get back as soon as I can," said Richburg, who was injured in the Giants' loss to New England eight days ago. "It all depends on how the ankle takes the rehab. I just have to stay after it this week, and try and be back as soon as I can.  

"I'd like to be back as soon as possible. The sooner I get this thing moving, the better."

•  Pugh was inactive for the game against the Patriots because he had not felt well since the Tampa Bay game the preceding week.

"It's been a continuous process," Coughlin said. "He won't be able to do anything until he meets all the conditions."

•  The Giants re-signed linebacker James Morris and cornerback Tramain Jacobs to the practice squad. Each player was recently released from the active roster.

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