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O-Line gets boost as Justin Pugh probable to return


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Justin Pugh has found his inner child, because he's overjoyed to be playing again.

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"I'm happy, I've been running around like a little kid all week," Pugh said. "You don't realize how much you miss something until it gets taken away from you."

Pugh missed the Giants' last two games because of a concussion he suffered in a victory at Tampa Bay on Nov. 8. In addition to the disappointment of not playing against New England and Washington, Pugh dealt with fear and uncertainty, because he hadn't before experienced such an injury.

"Never, never in my life," he said. "I was scared, I'm not going to lie. I was definitely scared by it. It was something that definitely woke me up, and made sure that you have to take care of yourself and make sure you're doing the proper things right, especially when you go into the (concussion) protocol, to take the baby steps and do things right. Obviously, it hurts on Sunday, especially that first one, the first time I had to watch a game on T.V. and it was no fun."

This season, Pugh has started eight games at left guard and one at left tackle, after playing right tackle in his first two seasons. After practicing without a setback this week, he is officially listed as probable for the Giants' home game Sunday against the Jets.

Pugh is one of three offensive linemen on the injury report. Center Weston Richburg (ankle) and right tackle Marshall Newhouse (back) are questionable.

Richburg did not play last Sunday in Washington and has been limited in practice this week. He's been optimistic about his chances of facing the Jets. The Giants don't have a full-scale practice on Friday, so Richburg will know more after the team's workout tomorrow morning.

"Hopefully I'll be able to go," Richburg said. "I'm looking forward to being out there again. I think (coach Tom Coughlin) wants us all out there. Tomorrow will be a big day."

Asked whether the remaining questions concern his strength or mobility, Richburg said, "It's everything, really. It's a mixture of both. You have to be able to anchor in the pass pro, and push some guys around in the run game, as well. We'll be testing it for sure tomorrow to see how well I'm able to do those things."

"He's worked, he's gotten a little bit more work each day, and he's pretty positive," Coughlin said. "We'll see tomorrow morning."

Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the New York Jets Sunday

Newhouse, who has started every game, said his pain didn't surface until the day after the Washington game.

"I woke up Monday and could barely move," he said. "I was just like, 'Don't be stupid, tell somebody, see what they have to say.' So from then on, it was just make sure there's nothing, like they said, lingering or that's going to be a long-term issue. (They) found out there really wasn't. And from then on it was just making sure you can improve enough, maybe not focus on getting back Sunday, but make sure that it's something you can come back from quickly. And then I think Sunday was in the picture once I started feeling better the next day and the next day and the next day."

"He's feeling better," Coughlin said. "I think we need to see him do some football-related things, which the way we're working now, we'd get a chance tomorrow morning to do that."

Asked if his availability for the Jets will be a game-time decision, Newhouse said, "You can say that."

If he doesn't play, rookie Bobby Hart is a candidate to replace him. The Giants could also move Pugh back to right tackle.

No matter where he plays, Pugh said he will not be worried about his concussion.

"I went out there (Thursday) and I hit heads with somebody, and soon as I got that first hit, I was good," he said. "That's something that as a football player, that's my instincts going out there, just to play the way I've always played, be aggressive, and I'm never not going to play that way. That's why I wanted to make sure I felt 100 percent before I went back and did it. I was able to do a lot of bag drills, so building that progression helps you build that confidence back up. I haven't put pads on since the Tampa Bay game, so that's going to be a big thing in warmups, to make sure I get some nice contact and feel good about it."

•  The Giants will be without two defensive starters Sunday in linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring/foot) and safety Brandon Meriweather (knee). In addition, tight end Larry Donnell will miss his fourth consecutive game with a neck injury.

Kennard sat out two games earlier this season with a hamstring injury. Mark Herzlich started in his place at strongside linebacker vs. San Francisco, and Unai 'Unga and J.T. Thomas started at Philadelphia, where the Giants opened the game in a two-linebacker alignment.

Meriweather has started every game at strong safety opposite rookie Landon Collins. Craig Dahl and Cooper Taylor are the other safeties on the roster.

In addition to Pugh, defensive ends Robert Ayers (toe) and Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) and fullback Nikita Whitlock, whose absence from practice Thursday was not injury related, are probable.

•  The tragic shooting that claimed 14 lives Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif. hit home for the Giants when they learned that one of the victims was a cousin of safety Nat Berhe. The second-year pro is on injured reserve.

"(It's) just a very sad thing," coach Tom Coughlin said. "I didn't realize the proximities or anything like that. Everyone's tried to express themselves to Nat about how sorry we feel about that circumstance. And of course, for everyone in our country, it's a sad, sad situation."

Coughlin was asked if the players are affected, and how that relates to their preparation for an important game Sunday vs. the Jets.

"Well, how can you not be?" he said. "How can you not be? You're a citizen of this country, and you have this circumstance that's taking place in our country and just, why? And how? Where's the value of life? What do these statements mean? What in the world are we up against? I think that they are affected by it, no doubt, they're very aware of what has transpired. I'm sure they join all of us in wishing it would stop and it wasn't a part of our world today, but unfortunately, it is."

Coughlin said he has not yet an opportunity to speak to Berhe.

"He's not here today," Coughlin said. "He was here yesterday and, quite frankly, I didn't know anything about it until later on in the day. But a bunch of the players saw him and talked to him."

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