The Giants' reserve running backs have been eager to increase their game-day workload and will now apparently get the opportunity.
Starter Ahmad Bradshaw has a fractured bone in his foot and might not play Sunday, when the Giants visit the New England Patriots in a battle of 5-2 teams. But the Giants are not ruling him out.
"He has had issues in the past and he has played with a crack or whatever you want to call it in his foot," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "He has played that way in the past and we don't know what the determination will be just yet. We will wait and see."
What's clear is that Bradshaw might not be on the field this week. He leads the team with 440 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 111 carries and is tied for third with 24 receptions for another 210 yards.
"He is not on the practice field," Coughlin said. "As long as he is not on the practice field, the guys that are practicing are going to go out there and perform as if the responsibility will be theirs."
That group includes veterans Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware and rookie seventh-round draft choice Da'Rel Scott, who was a shooting star in the preseason but has not carried the ball in the regular season.
Jacobs, of course, is the most experienced member of that that threesome. A two-time 1,000-yard rusher, he started all 28 games in which he played in 2008-09. Last year, he played in all 16 games with five starts.
This year, Jacobs missed two games with a knee injury before returning in last week's victory over Miami. He has 42 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns and is anxious for more touches. That could change against the Patriots.
"What would be better than the opportunity that he's going to get now?" offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "He's been clamoring for a chance. The chance is here. This is an opportunity. You want to show what you can do. I'm looking forward to seeing the way he plays. I think he's going to respond very well. I'm excited about seeing him play."
Almost as excited as Jacobs is to get more work.
"Looks like I will get my opportunity to play more," said Jacobs, who is Bradshaw's closest friend on the team. "I just want to go out there to help the team, as much as I can. Go out and perform to the best of my ability. If the opportunity is given to me, I'll take advantage of it."
Jacobs said he can be productive with a heavier workload.
"I think that's what we'll need to do for all aspects of our game to work as an offense," Jacobs said. "You run the ball well, you throw the ball well. You throw the ball well, you run the ball well. So that's my goal is to be able to provide a part of our game to help us win."
Coughlin said Jacobs has worked hard this week in practice and is capable of being an every-down back.
"If we need him in that capacity, he can be that," Coughlin said.
Gilbride is confident, but wants to see Jacobs perform.
"I go by what I see, not by the conversations," Gilbride said. "I think in the past he's been physical. He's been a physical blocker. He needs to do that Sunday or we're not going to have much of a chance. I think he will."
Ware has spent five years looking for an opening behind Bradshaw and Jacobs (and Derrick Ward in his first season here). Since arriving here on Dec. 4, 2007, he has 43 rushing attempts, including 14 this season, tying the career high he set last year. He's gained 45 yards this year and 206 in a Giants uniform.
Ware insists he is ready to carry a heavier load.
"As ready as can be," he said. "I've been up all week, early, getting my mind right and getting ready to go and hopefully I'll get a little more than just a little bit this time and go out there, show these guys what 2-8 (his uniform number) is all about.
"I'm ready to play. Going against the best, that's what I'm all about. I played in the SEC, so we played some tough ball down there. Just want to pick up from there and show these boys I can play power, hard-nosed football."
Scott was the 221st player selected in this year's NFL Draft, but the Giants believe his ability is commensurate with a much higher pick. He demonstrated during the preseason that he might have warranted a higher selection. Scott led the Giants with 213 yards on only 14 carries, including a 97-yard touchdown vs. Chicago and a 65-yard score at New England on a fake punt after the ball was directly snapped to him. In the regular season, he has played in only three games and touched the ball once, on a four-yard reception vs. Buffalo. But perhaps he'll get another chance Sunday to make a big play in Gillette Stadium.
"We'll see how the coaches feel and see if they have the confidence in me to play," Scott said. "I'm 100% ready. They know that. It just depends on the situation I'd be put in.
"(I'm) very excited (about the possibility of playing). I've been waiting for my opportunity the whole season. Just have to make sure I make the best of it like I did in the preseason."
Scott has made plays in the preseason and in practice, but regular season is played at warp speed compared to those settings. Scott has to prove he can produce in that pressurized environment.
"What you see you feel good about," Gilbride said. "I think you see a guy that has some potential. It's just any time until a guy's done it you're always a little bit hesitant with the game, the game speed. It's hard to simulate it in practices. You try like crazy to do that. I think we do as good a job as anybody at trying to get to that game speed, but it's still not the same. No matter what you do it's different. The complexity of the looks and the sophistication of the disguises are all just much more challenging in a game than they are in practice. You just can't get a look squad to give you that. It's never going to happen."
Though it's good to have the depth that Jacobs, Ware and Scott provide, the best scenario for the Giants is if Bradshaw plays. He is, after all, 20th in the NFL with 650 yards from scrimmage.
Bradshaw has played with similar injuries in the past. In 2009, he seldom practiced because of stress fractures of the fifth metatarsal – located on the outside of the foot – of both feet, as well as a bone spur in his ankle, all of which required surgery following the season. But he missed only one game and rushed for 778 yards.
"It was difficult," Jacobs said. "He did the best he could do and showed toughness. He did anything he could possibly do to be effective."
Because of that, Jacobs isn't counting his friend out for the game Sunday in New England.
"It wouldn't surprise me and as far as I know, it is not out the question," Jacobs said. "I just know he is down right now and that is it. I just hope everything heals up good and he gets back out here."
He's not alone.
*Bradshaw was one of four players to miss practice today. The others were wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), center David Baas (knee) and tackle Stacy Andrews (back).
Nicks, the Giants' leading receiver with 38 catches, was asked if he thinks he'll face the Patriots.
"As of right now, I don't know, he said. "You may ask me tomorrow and it may be something different. I'm hoping to wake up and the pain will be gone. I'm just taking it day-to-day.
"I like to bounce back pretty quickly from injuries. This is different; this is something that you have to be smart about. We have a long season ahead of us. If I have to sit out one week and come back the next, I would rather do that than being out for a while. I just have to be smart about the whole situation."
Nicks is confident if he does miss the game, it will be a one-time occurrence.
"I don't think it is anything crazy like it will be two, three or four weeks," Nicks said. "It is a matter of me not wanting it to be there so I have to be cautious about it and take care of it."
Five players were limited in practice, including defensive ends Osi Umenyiora (knee/shoulder) and Jason Pierre-Paul (neck), tight end Bear Pascoe (finger), fullback Henry Hynoski (neck) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot).
Linebacker Michael Boley (knee), defensive end Justin Tuck (groin) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (illness) practiced fully.
*The Giants and Patriots will meet for the first time in the regular season since the Giants defeated New England in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14. That game was played five weeks after the Giants narrowly lost, 38-35, to a Patriots team that completed a 16-0 regular season. New England has won the last four regular season games in the series - in 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007 - and leads the series, 5-3. The 2003 game was the Giants' only previous regular season visit to Gillette Stadium, though they have played five preseason games there. The Giants' last regular season victory over the Patriots was by a 13-10 score on Dec. 30, 1990. In the teams' eight regular season games, the Giants have scored 143 points, the Patriots 142.
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