One week after suffering a broken bone in his foot, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks today said "I don't have any doubt" when asked if he will play in the Giants' season opener on Sept. 5 vs. Dallas.
Nicks, a four-year veteran, fractured the fifth metatarsal of his right foot last Thursday during the team's second OTA (organized team activity) workout. Nicks suffered the injury early in practice as he was running a route during individual drills in the Timex Performance Center field house.
The following day, Nicks underwent surgery to have a screw inserted into the broken bone. The procedure was performed by noted foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C.
The Giants announced that Nicks' expected recovery time would be approximately 12 weeks – that would be Aug. 16, two days after the Giants break training camp at the University at Albany (they report to camp July 26).
But the healing of broken bones is an inexact science, especially for a wide receiver who is constantly pushing off out of breaks and coming to abrupt stops.
"The doctor said that he had people come back as early as four weeks, six weeks to eight weeks," Nicks said. "It really just ranges. We just don't want any setbacks. So we are going to take it – the team wants to take it 12 weeks, that is what they are giving us. So I think that is what we are going go by, what the team gives us. But my goal is always to come back earlier. We just have to play it smart and be ready for the season."
Nicks said suffering the injury was an unremarkable event.
"It was just a simple hook route from inside the slot," Nicks said. "And when I was turning back for the ball I just felt a little snap. I walked it off for a second but then I felt that something wasn't right. I don't think anyone noticed it; I just kind of walked off to the side and pulled the trainer to the side and I said, 'I think I felt something pop in my foot.' They checked it out. I went and got X-rays it showed a slight little crack. We had to go and take care of that. My goal was to get it done as soon as possible. I got it done the next day. They said the sooner I could get it done the sooner I would be able to come back."
Nicks has consulted with teammates who have had similar injuries, including Ahmad Bradshaw, Domenik Hixon and Prince Amukamara.
"Mainly Bradshaw said that I would be good, ready to go once the screws get in and they heal up and everything," Nicks said. "But it is just a matter of the wound healing up. It feels good. I'm walking around pretty good right now. But it is still early. I'm barely a week in. So it is just a matter of me being patient about it and just making sure I'm doing all of the right things and taking care of my body."
Nicks' foot is currently in a walking boot. One of the challenges a player with his kind of injury faces is staying in top condition, because he is unable to run for perhaps two or three months. Nicks is taking steps to stay in peak shape.
"You have to really just make sure you are eating all of the right things and not getting too big," he said. "The doctor told me in two weeks I will be able to bike and do the elliptical and stuff like that. So in about another week I'll be able to do the elliptical and do stuff in the training room to keep my cardio up and conditioning. Obviously, I won't be able to run. I might be able to do some running in the pool and stuff but as far as physically running, I think that's just what I have to do – be the pro and do all of the other things I can do for conditioning the upper body except for running. Do things in the pool, do things on the bike. I have another week or so before I can do that."
Nicks is extremely competitive and eager to return to the field, but he is not worried about pressing to get back in uniform earlier than the team's deadline.
"I like having that mentality," he said. "It helps me all of the time. But obviously, if I feel something while I'm running I'm going to listen to my body. I'm going to be smart about it. If I feel something while I'm running I'm going to tell the coach, I'm going to tell the trainers I still feel it a little bit. If not, then, I'm going to keep it going. But I'm going to be smart about it on my first day back. I'm not going to get in and jump in and do a whole practice. I might just jump in the first practice and do individual drills, work it in with 25% reps. The next practice 50 %, then work my way into it until (I have a) full practice. I don't think they will just have me jump out into a full practice once I'm ready to go and cleared by the doctors. I know our trainers do a good job of working us back into it."
Nicks owns a home in Charlotte and has stayed there since his surgery. He said he will return to New Jersey over the weekend and begin working with the team's athletic trainers and rejoin his teammates next week, when the Giants will have four OTAs and visit the White House (on Friday, June 8).
In his absence, Jerrel Jernigan, Ramses Barden, Hixon and second-round draft choice Rueben Randle are expected to get more practice reps.
"Those guys have been around for awhile except for the young guys that just came in and then guys who are trying to compete for a spot like Jernigan," Nicks said. "I reached out to them and told them to just work on your craft, work on the things you need to get better at and be ready to compete. It is an opportunity for a lot of guys to share, to compete. And I'm sure everybody is ready to compete for that. My presence is still going to be there when I get there next week. I'll still be in the film room with those guys and being able to – I won't be out on the practice field with them but I'll be able to watch the film with them and still talk to them and tell them some things."
Nicks, of course, is familiar with the Giants offense and knows his assignment on every play. But he will have to work off the rust he picks up during his inactivity and regain his timing with Eli Manning.
"I don't think it is going to be too hard," Nicks said. "It is just going to be a matter of getting the plays. I know the plays, I know the offense so that won't be hard. It is just going to be a matter of getting my wind back up and being able to put together the 10-12, 16-play drives without getting fatigued. I think after a few days of that I think I will be good.
"I definitely feel like I will be ready to go when it is time to be ready to go. We just don't want any setbacks, so we are just going to take it slow as of right now. But once it is time to run and do all of those types of things, I'll be able to judge it more. I'm only a week in right now, so it is pretty hard to say. By the time I'm ready to do some elliptical biking and stuff in about a week, we'll see how I feel when I start doing that stuff. And then we will base it off that."
But to Nicks, the long-term goal is to be on the field when the defending Super Bowl champion Giants begin their season against the Cowboys.
"That is always my goal – to get back quickly," he said. "I love the game of football and I love being out there with my teammates. You don't want stuff like this to happen, but it happened. So my goal is to get back healthy as fast as I can and get back on the field."