Ahmad Bradshaw is ready to return to the fray.
"I feel great," Bradshaw said today. "No symptoms at all, nothing. Lets me know that I'm going to be prepared for this week."
Bradshaw suffered a neck injury in the second quarter of the Giants' victory over Tampa Bay on Sept. 16. He missed the team's triumph last week in Carolina. He returned to practice this week and Tom Coughlin said Bradshaw will start Sunday night against the Eagles in Philadelphia in an NFC East showdown of 2-1 teams.
"It's a big game for me," Bradshaw said. "I'm ready to get back into things. It's a divisional opponent, and I think it's a big contest for our team."
But how much Bradshaw plays is open to question. His early-season stats show 22 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown. That includes a 33-yard run. His replacement, Andre Brown, has 33 rushing attempts for 184 yards, a 5.6-yard average, and three scores, including two vs. the Panthers. He has also caught five passes for 36 yards.
Coughlin said yesterday that Brown has "definitely" earned a role in the offense. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride seconded that notion this afternoon. So it appears Bradshaw and Brown – and maybe rookie David Wilson – will split the carries this weekend and perhaps for the foreseeable future.
"One year, we had three guys," Coughlin said of 2008 when Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Bradshaw split the workload. "You know, there's a long, long way to go, and we're just happy that we've had an opportunity to develop some players and they will all have the chance to contribute."
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said there's "no question" Brown has emerged as a major contributor.
"He's really played well," Gilbride said. "He got an opportunity that probably would not have occurred if it wasn't for the injury to Ahmad. But he did just what you pray as a coach that a guy will do when a chance presents itself. He went out and made some plays. He's really changed the dynamic of our run game. He's run the ball very, very well both games. He's definitely earned the right to get into the mix and he'll play some, it's just a matter of trying to get a feel for what plays certain guys run a little more effectively than others and you're always hoping that someone gets hot and you feed the hot hand."
Although he has obviously impressed his coaches, Brown assumes nothing regarding his playing time going forward.
"(I) continue to prepare for an opportunity and that's it," said Brown, whose career totals were two attempts for minus-1 yard before his current surge. "Coach told me just continue to prepare and whatever happens, happens. That's all I can do."
Brown is even reluctant to admit his impressive performances have earned him more playing time.
"I just went out there and took advantage of an opportunity," Brown said. "So I'll leave it up to the coaches and just go out here and continue preparing for my next opportunity."
So will Wilson, this year's first-round draft choice who had six carries for eight yards in the first three games. He has only five touches since losing a fumble early in the season opener vs. Dallas.
"There's no doubt in my mind that I'll get my chance at some point," Wilson said. "But until that happens, I'm working hard and learning everything I can.
"When you have three backs, you become a more powerful team, especially three productive backs. So I'm just looking for my opportunity. Until then, I'm just practicing hard, working hard, keeping my head up, learning everything I can."
As Brown learned, following that regimen and exercising patience will eventually earn you a chance to play.