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WR Nicks ready for hometown challenge


Hakeem Nicks is a star in the big city, but he's still attached to his southern hometown.

Nicks, the Giants' standout wide receiver, was raised and starred at North Carolina powerhouse Independence High School in Charlotte, where the Giants will face the Carolina Panthers Thursday night in Bank of America Stadium. It will be Nicks' first regular season game in the state where he also set records at the University of North Carolina.

Playing an NFL game in front of his family has long been one of Nicks' goals.

"That's where you grew up and then all your family wants to come see you play," Nicks said today. "Always, always a dream. Last time I played there was the preseason game last year, so it really wasn't a lot of playing time. This year is a full game. I'm definitely looking forward to it."

Nicks didn't practice today, but – "That was by plan," Tom Coughlin said – as the Giants continue to reduce the stress on his surgically-repaired foot. Nicks has every intention of playing, but doesn't want to risk losing playing time in the future. Coughlin also said he expects Nicks to play.

"It's definitely something I'm looking forward to, but at the same time, I will have to be smart in this situation," Nicks said. "It's still early in the season, but as of right now, everything is looking good and I'm looking forward to playing."

Nicks is coming off one of his finest career games, a 10-catch, 199-yard spectacular in the Giants' 41-34 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday. That included a 23-yard touchdown and a 50-yard catch to set up the game-winning score. That was a big part of the Giants' 604-yard offensive explosion, which included a team-record 510 net passing yards.

"I believe it can happen again," Nicks said. "We've just got to play within our offense, play within our schemes and just make big plays. We ran the ball well, we threw the ball well, so we keep doing that and the sky's the limit."

Just as important as his production was the fact that Nicks did nothing serious to the foot, which kept him out of training camp and from playing all but a few snaps in the preseason.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Nicks said. "Just got to keep taking it day-by-day and tomorrow should feel a little bit better and then Thursday will be game time."

Nicks admits to being a Panthers fan when he was younger. His favorite player was Steve Smith, the five-time Pro Bowl receiver with 709 career receptions. But instead of trying to post gaudy numbers in his hometown, Nicks is most concerned with helping the Giants win.

"It's contribute to the offense the best way possible," Nicks said. "Do whatever I've got to do to get the job done.

"I know how to approach the game by now. I just approach it the way I approach any other game. It's time to play ball and I do it."

*In addition to Nicks, three Giants did not practice today: running back Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), wide receiver Domenik Hixon (concussion) and tackle David Diehl (knee).

Coughlin said it was "highly unlikely" that Diehl will play Thursday. Regarding Bradshaw, Coughlin said, "He's day-to-day, too."

Later, when asked specifically about Diehl and Hixon, Coughlin said, "We're holding out hope against all odds that they would feel better. But we're taking it day-to-day and naturally with a concussion you have the protocol they have to go through and it's a short week. Dave felt better today, but how much better? We'll have to see."

Four other players were limited in practice: cornerback Prince Amukamara (ankle), linebacker Keith Rivers (hamstring), cornerback Michael Coe (hamstring) and defensive end Adewale Ojomo (hamstring).

*Coughlin began his news conference with an unsolicited tribute to NFL Films president Steve Sabol, who died this morning after an 18-month battle with brain cancer.

"I feel so bad for Steve's family and what Steve went through here for the last 18 months was just terrible, so our heart goes out to Steve's family," Coughlin said. "Steve and his dad are the recorders of history in the National Football League and what a magnificent job they've done, so our heart pours out to Steve's family."

*Coughlin was asked if he wants to see a more balanced offense.

"That's what I always say, but I'll take the 600 yards, thank you very much, and not the turnovers," he said. The Giants committed three turnovers vs. the Buccaneers.

*The Giants are 48-34-5 in road openers. The 48 victories are the second-most in NFL history, behind green Bay's 53.

*The Giants' .585 winning percentage in road openers is third in league history, behind Dallas, (623, 33-20) and Green Bay (.596, 53-36-2)

*The Giants are 12-6-3 in Thursday games.

*Eli Manning's 80-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz against Tampa Bay was his longest in a Giants home game – but not his longest in MetLife Stadium.

His previous long touchdown passes at home were a pair of 74-yarders vs. Dallas, the first to Brandon Jacobs on on Dec. 6, 2009 and another to Victor Cruz in the 2011 season finale. But his longest MetLife Stadium touchdown pass was the instant classic 99-yarder to Cruz vs. the Jets last Dec. 24 when the Giants were the visiting team.

*The Buccaneers' 34 points were the most points allowed by a Tom Coughlin-coached team in a home victory. The Giants beat the Cowboys 41-35 on Oct. 25, 2010 and 37-34 on Dec. 11, 2011, but both of those games were in Dallas.

*The Giants are one of 20 teams with a 1-1 record after Week 2, the most 1-1 teams in a single season in NFL history. Since realignment in 2002, four teams have started the season with 1-1 or 0-2 record and gone on to win the Super Bowl that season. The 2007 and 2011 Giants were two of those teams. The others were the 2002 Buccaneers and the 2003 New England Patriots.


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