The clamoring for Prince Amukamara's NFL debut was at its height last time the Giants traveled to San Francisco.
The cornerback, who fractured his fifth metatarsal at the beginning of training camp, had already missed the first nine weeks at the time, and coaches, players, and fans alike were getting antsy to see their first-round pick get his feet wet.
On the verge of being cleared to play, Tom Coughlin, however, decided he would not play Amukamara despite him making the cross-country flight to San Francisco. After the loss, the Giants then returned east as Amukamara debuted the following week at home against the Eagles with an interception in his first series.
Amukamara, remembering the long wait, appreciates the patience, allowing him to be healthy and play in a conference championship game as a rookie.
"It means a lot," he said. "Just think about all the hard work and dedication that was put in it. To have that opportunity and just to be one game away to do what you've been working hard for, it's incredible."
Amukamara is one of 11 rookies on the active roster making it all the way to the NFC Championship game in their first season.
"We talk about it," Greg Jones said. "We're kind of all the same way – 'We didn't do too bad for our first year in the league.' But more importantly, I've talked to the older guys. I think it makes it more real for me because talking to some guys, they've been playing here for a while and haven't seen one yet, haven't been to the playoffs or didn't go far into the playoffs. It's crazy because I don't know what that's like."
In the next stall over in the locker room, fellow rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams shared a similar experience with some of the veterans on defense.
"I had the opportunity to talk to Chris Canty and Michael Boley saying they haven't even won a playoff game, let alone be in this situation," Williams said. "Just imagine guys that have put in 10, eight years in and they haven't had the opportunity. That makes me more appreciative of the whole thing."
The pace of the NFL is fast for any of the players, let alone rookies. That's why they need to strike a balance between keeping up with the playbook and letting it all soak in.
"I feel like we appreciate it, especially us…contributing to special teams so much that it's a big part of the whole game," Spencer Paysinger said. "So the simple fact that we can give our two cents to the whole team and go all out for the team, I feel like we can appreciate that."