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Justin Pugh expects to return Sunday vs. Lions


OG Justin Pugh is optimistic about returning to the field on Sunday vs. the Lions:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – A week ago, Justin Pugh believed he would play against the Dallas Cowboys. But on Sunday, he was inactive for the fifth consecutive game with a knee injury.

Now Pugh is convinced he will start at his familiar left guard spot this week, when the Giants host the Detroit Lions in a battle of 9-4 teams. This time, he really means it.

"I think this is the week," Pugh said today. "I felt good last week. They eased me back into it. As long as there are no hiccups this week, I think I'll be ready to go."

Pugh was officially limited in practice today, but said he took most of the first-team reps – with no adverse effects.

"I feel good," he said. "I think I'm going to play this week. Obviously, it's been a rough road for me trying to get back. Setbacks, thinking I'm playing last week and then not playing. I've been doing everything at practice, so this is the week I'm going to come back, for sure."

Pugh hurt his knee early in the Giants' victory against Philadelphia on Nov. 6. He originally hoped to miss two or three games, but had a setback when he first returned to practice. Pugh then set his sights on the Dallas game, but the team's medical staff did not clear him to suit up for the game, which the Giants won, 10-7.

"It was killing me," Pugh said. "Obviously, I hear it from all the O-line. We're like brothers. All five of us are in there. We're the closest group on the team, in my opinion. I was hearing it from Weston (Richburg) and J.J. (John Jerry): 'We want you back out there and blah, blah, blah.' It's nice not to hear that from them anymore and to be back out there and playing. I was running around like a little kid today, having fun."

The time off was not totally wasted.

"I think you get a better perspective when you have to sit on the bench for a little while and see guys play, and what works for other guys," he said. "Just been doing a lot of film-watching and seeing how we're playing, and how other guards are playing in the league. It gave me a chance to go back and look at my own play and evaluate, which you don't usually get a chance to do. Just make sure that I'm coming back fresh and ready to go. Just providing that spark for the offense."

Three different players have started for Pugh – Brett Jones vs. Cincinnati, Adam Gettis in Cleveland, and Marshall Newhouse in three of the last four games, including the victory vs. Dallas.

Now Pugh is eager to reclaim his position and help the Giants drive toward a potential postseason berth.

"For me, it's huge," he said. "I miss these guys and being able to be out there. Obviously, the atmosphere in the last game, I was very jealous of those guys being out there. Just try and bring back some energy. Come back, I'm fresh. Just run around and keep spirits going and get a breath of fresh air. It'll be good."

*Victor Cruz had one catch for four yards against Dallas, the fourth consecutive game in which he's caught a pass that he had only one reception.

"It was tough to complete the ball all night," coach Ben McAdoo said. "That was a product of the environment and Dallas had a good plan, played good defense and we didn't execute at a high level in the pass game."

"Obviously, as an athlete and as a competitor you want the ball as much as you can, especially when you feel like you are getting open in certain scenarios and certain areas," Cruz said. "But you just have to be a professional and understand that some balls are going to come your way and some aren't, and you just have to take it in stride."

*Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) and linebacker Keenan Robinson (shoulder) did not practice today.

Three players who are in the NFL concussion protocol – running back Shane Vereen, linebacker Mark Herzlich and safety Nat Berhe – were limited to non-contact work.

In addition to Pugh, players who were limited in practice were long snapper Zak DeOssie (hamstring), defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (shoulder) and defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (knee).

*Three Lions players, all starters, missed practice: running back Theo Riddick (wrist), center Travis Swanson (concussion) and defensive end Ziggy Ansah (shoulder).

Quarterback Matthew Stafford practiced fully, despite the finger injury he suffered last week vs. Chicago.

A look at the expected starters for the Giants' Week 15 opponent

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