Tom Coughlin's job description mandates that he worry about all of the Giants' players and position groups, but the head coach admits he harbored good feelings about his defensive tackles when training camp began.
"I thought we were as deep there as we were at any position on the team," Coughlin said.
But after the Giants' three-week run at the University at Albany ended today, Coughlin said, "It's not that way right now."
Much of that valuable reserve strength Coughlin spoke of has vanished.
Shaun Rogers (blood clot in his left leg) and Martin Parker (back) are both out for the season, bad news they received after being examined Monday by team physician Dr. Russell Warren at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. Rogers was also seen by vascular surgeon Dr. John Karwowaki and is being treated for the blood clot in his lower leg. Rogers is a 12-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowler who was signed on April 26. Because Rogers was overweight, the Giants limited his workload in the spring. But Rogers arrived in Albany leaner and hungrier.
"It's very sad, because … he lost 50 pounds," Coughlin said. "He went from the high 380s to 334 to check in at. He was really excited about being a part of this team. He got along really well with our defensive linemen. He actually asked to go play some more snaps the other night, which I thought was really neat. It's just a shame. I hate to see…obviously, it's your health first, and there isn't any question about that. The only way I guess they can control these things are with these drugs, these blood-thinning drugs. Once you do that, obviously you're done. I mean, you can't take a chance on some kind of bleeding that is undetected. So, it's just a sad thing."
Parker has a herniated disc in his back which will require surgery. He spent the 2011 season on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Another defensive tackle, second-year pro Marvin Austin, was examined today at Hospital for Special Surgery for a back issue. Coughlin did not have an update when he met the media.
"I'm praying that when the phone call comes, it's a good one - that it can be controlled and all that business," Coughlin said. "But I haven't heard a word, not since he left."
Austin did all his required work yesterday, but Coughlin learned last night he had a back issue.
"He practiced," Coughlin said. "He did the jog through. He did it all. 9:15. I don't like those phone calls."
The Giants were down a tackle when camp opened because Chris Canty, who started all 20 regular season and postseason games last year, is on the physically unable to perform list as he rehabilitates from offseason knee surgery. Canty does not know when he will return.
Rocky Bernard missed last week's preseason opener in Jacksonville with a knee injury, but has practiced all week and said he is "alright."
The absences leave the Giants with four healthy tackles: Linval Joseph and Bernard as the starters and Dwayne Hendricks and Markus Kuhn, this year's seventh-round draft choice, as backups. Each of them believes the group can thrive until reinforcements arrive.
"Things happen," Joseph said. "Just like last year, things happen. We're going to get through it. Every year when something like that happens, young guys step up. We're ready. We're just going to go to practice and see how we look and how everything rolls out and then we're going to make a game plan."
"I just think we need to pick up each other's slack," Bernard said. "I'm pretty sure they'll bring in some other guys. I'm just trying to go out and help as much as I can. Pretty sure they'll come up with a plan for everything. I'm not worried about that."
Among the tackles currently healthy, Bernard and Joseph are established commodities. The former has played in 160 regular season and postseason games with 60 starts and has combined totals of 399 tackles and 37.0 sacks. Joseph is a third-year pro who started all but one game in the Giants' championship season.
Hendricks and Kuhn have more to prove. A former Miami Hurricane, Hendricks spent time on the Giants' practice squad in each of the previous three seasons, was on the active roster for more than a month in 2011 and played briefly in one game, at New England on Nov. 6. He has continued to work hard and Coughlin praised him without prompting early this week. Hendricks is eager to assume a larger role in the defense.
"Whatever the coaches see me fit for, I feel more ready and willing to take on the role that they see me playing," he said. "It's obviously unfortunate and you never just want to be given something as a competitor. Stuff happens and then sometimes people will be called upon to do other things. Just to be given that opportunity or to be thought of in that chance of getting a different role is always a good thing."
Kuhn is a German native who began playing football at age 15. He had a productive career at North Carolina State and has made progress in camp.
"I, personally, am not changing my approach," Kuhn said. "I don't work harder or less hard just because of a situation. I work as hard if everybody's healthy or whoever is coming in or not coming in. I'm doing everything in my power to be the best I can be. It doesn't matter if everybody's healthy or nobody's healthy."
*In addition to the tackles, defensive end Justin Trattou (ankle/heel), who was injured in the first week of camp, was also examined by Dr. Warren, as well as foot and ankle specialist Dr. David Levine. He is still experiencing issues with his heel and is not expected back on the field for several weeks.