Twice this season, Hakeem Nicks stood at his locker to say he would play in the Giants' upcoming game, only to be placed on the inactive list because of his lingering injuries.
So after participating in individual drills today in practice, Nicks was understandably cautious when asked about his prospects for playing Sunday in against the 49ers in San Francisco.
"I'm not really trying to talk about injuries too much," Nicks said. "My mentality is that I'm playing alright. We'll see tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a deciding factor. Hopefully that answers all the questions I've been asking. Right now, I'm just going through the course and stuff like that. It's still a matter of me just getting back out there."
Coach Tom Coughlin concurred with Nicks' analysis.
"It's always the next day," Coughlin said. "He's got another day."
Ideally, Nicks will do a little more in practice tomorrow.
"(We'll) see how he is and practice if he can," Coughlin said.
Nicks missed most of training camp and three of the four preseason games while rehabbing his surgically-repaired foot. He returned for the season-opener but hurt his knee in a Week 2 victory over Tampa Bay (when he was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after catching 10 passes for 199 yards). He has been inactive for the last three games, which Coughlin admits is a concern.
"It is, no question, but he's into it," Coughlin said. "He's in every meeting. He listens to every comment made about the other receivers, guys at his position. He studies the tape. He's done all of those things. Has he repped every route? No."
In the weeks he played, Nicks participated in just one practice. Now he hopes to practice tomorrow to prove he can play Sunday.
"I really just went out there trying to see if I was showing any favoritism (to either injury)," Nicks said. "I wasn't trying to see if I was catching every pass or anything like that. It was just a matter of if I was compensating. I felt pretty good today, so it wasn't really up for me to decide. I need to go out there tomorrow, have a full practice. If I go through that, it'll be good."
The Giants' passing attack hasn't exactly struggled in Nicks' absence – they're third in the NFL with an average of 309.0 yards a game. But Nicks is a gifted player whose presence would provide a huge lift to the offense.
"There's a reason he's a starter," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "You see the contribution he's capable of making when you see Tampa Bay, that's the difference. The other guys have filled in admirably. We're very proud to see what Ramses (Barden) did for a couple of games, what Rueben (Randle) did this past game, Domenik (Hixon) has been unbelievable all season long. A lot of the things that maybe people on the outside don't see, not only the terrific catches, but his blocking, his route running, some of the things he's done have been phenomenal. I'm proud of them all, but you always want your best players, when you get your starters to come back. The more you have there, the more difficult it is for people to matchup. Some of the advantages that they may have in certain spots, maybe they start swinging in your favor. To get him back would be great.
"The problem is, just getting him back is one thing. What level is he able to play at, is the other. That's what we'll have to wait and see."
No one wants the question answered more than Nicks.
"I'm ready to see," he said. "It's been three games and I'm ready to get back out there. I have to be patient, and patience is a virtue. I've been down this road before, it's not anything new. I need to get back right."
*The Giants have only eight sacks in five games, including 3.5 by defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. But defensive coordinator Perry Fewell expects those numbers to grow.
"They'll get sacks, they'll get hits," Fewell said. "I have a lot of confidence in those guys. They'll play, they'll be fine.
"The way the offenses are attacking us right now, sometimes that limits their opportunities. The ball does come out pretty quick on us. The way people are playing us, it doesn't matter. We give them a number of opportunities to do what they do best. Obviously yes, we have to figure out and make the game more one dimensional. If we do a better job in the run game, we can help them by letting them do what they do best."
*Only three players were unable to practice today: defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (quadriceps), running back Andre Brown (concussion) and safety Kenny Phillips (knee).
Coughlin said of Phillips, "He's still got a ways to go."
Five players were limited, including four who did not practice yesterday: tight end Martellus Bennett (knee), linebacker Chase Blackburn (hip), cornerback Corey Webster (hand/hamstring) and Nicks. Tackle David Diehl was limited for the second day in a row.
Linebacker Michael Boley (hip) practiced fully after being limited yesterday. Also working with no limitations were wide receiver Ramses Barden (concussion), cornerback Jayron Hosley (hamstring), linebacker Keith Rivers (hamstring) and safety Antrel Rolle (knee).
Rivers has missed the last two and three of the last four games but is confident he'll be in uniform on Sunday.
"I feel like I'm turning the corner," he said. "Obviously, hamstrings are tricky, so you've always got to be cautious until they're completely gone. But I felt like I've turned the corner where I can see kind of the light at the end of the tunnel."
Fewell said, "We'll try to utilize his speed as much as we possibly can."
*The Giants have scored an on NFL-best 51.8 percent of their possessions this season. The 49ers are second at 49.1 percent.