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    Excerpt: "Chris Canty was telling Antrel Rolle he feels different this year. He’s
    fresh, he’s healthy and he’s ready to play a lot more football.

    That hasn’t always been the case for the Giants’ defensive tackle, particularly in
    his last game with the Dallas Cowboys, a 44-6 blowout loss to the Philadelphia
    Eagles in a 2008 Week 17 matchup to determine the final wild-card team.

    It was supposed to be a close game, and it was — for one quarter. But Philly
    scored 24 unanswered points to close the first half and added a defensive
    touchdown to start the third quarter to quickly make it a blowout victory.

    The Eagles then beat the Minnesota Vikings and Giants before nearly knocking
    off the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game.

    “We went into their place, they got on top of us early and the game just
    snowballed out of control,” Canty said today. “You looked at the second half,
    and guys were just pretty much thinking about their exit physicals, packing
    their lockers up and shipping cars home. You could tell in the way guys were
    playing they had kind of checked out — present company included.

    “The whole team, the mentality of the team would not allow us to be
    successful in that type of environment, in that situation.”

    Now, Canty hopes the Giants can prevent the Cowboys from being successful in
    a similar situation.

    The teams will meet Sunday night to determine this season’s NFC East champ.
    It’s again expected to be a good game, though many of the banged-up Cowboys
    surely recall how quickly things spiraled out of control three years ago on the
    other end of the Turnpike.

    Even if they’re not willing to acknowledge it publicly.

    “It’s a big one. It’s huge,” was all linebacker Bradie James would say,
    according to, when pressed on the similarities between the games.
    Wide receiver Miles Austin, who went to Garfield High and Monmouth University,
    declined to answer such questions. Others spoke only in generalities.

    Canty, having experienced the downside, will remind his teammates of the
    upside should they take an early lead in front of their fans." Read more...


    "Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is practicing with more protection on his
    bruised throwing hand.

    Romo came out of the locker room today wearing a protective wrap on his
    swollen right hand. The wrap left his fingers and thumb free, and he made a few
    soft tosses as practice began.

    wasn't wearing anything on his hand
    when throwing Wednesday.

    Romo, who banged his hand on a defender's helmet Saturday against
    Philadelphia, has said he expects to play Sunday night when the Cowboys take on
    the Giants with the NFC East title on the line."


    "Brandon Jacobs isn't one to bite his tongue. That was evidenced by last
    week's war of words between he and the Jets that culminated
    in a post-game verbal altercation with Rex Ryan

    Today, Jacobs said talk is "100 percent appropriate for me all the time," but
    surprisingly he didn't have much to say about the Cowboys. That is, the team
    itself. The team's fans were a whole other matter.

    "You know what it is? You’ve got a lot of people on other teams hating the
    Cowboys. It’s their fans," Jacobs asserted. "Some of their fans are loud,
    obnoxious and just bad. Just everywhere you go you’ve got them Dallas fans,
    running their mouth about Dallas. They keep going. It’s not really the team and
    the star and all that. They’re just like any other team in the National Football
    League if you ask me. But their fans are the ones that have me really just
    feeling the way I feel."

    Plenty is made of the fans in Philadelphia, but Jacobs thinks Cowboys
    supporters take the cake.

    "Yeah, they are," Jacobs said when asked if Cowboys fans were worse. "I’m not
    talking about being actually at the game and doing the type of stuff they do in
    Philly. I’m just talking about in every day life. Cowboys fans get on my

    Sunday night's game will be at home at MetLife Stadium, but the Cowboys are
    "America's Team" and Jacobs knows they will be a good number in the crowd for
    the battle for NFC East supremacy.

    "Oh there’s going to be a lot of them in, no question about it," Jacobs said.
    "There’s going to be a bunch of them here. They’re going to have a lot of
    support here. We’ve just got to go out there and do what we’ve got to do. It’s
    still our home field."


    Excerpt: "Hakeem Nicks said he did some striding and backpedaling today to see if he’d
    “notice” his injured hamstring.

    So, did he?

    “Yeah, I can’t lie,” the Giants’ wide
    receiver said today after sitting out practice but doing light work on the side.
    “This ain’t something that’s just going to go away overnight. It’s still there.
    But can I play with it?”

    Nicks never got around to finishing that response because a reporter nearly
    got whacked in the head with a camera as the media made a mad dash to Osi
    Umenyiora’s locker. But the answer was likely going to be “yes.”

    After all, Nicks believes he’ll practice on Friday.

    “Some 7-on-7 plays and what not. See how it feels,” he said. “I wouldn’t want
    to just go out on Sunday and test it out. I want to know, at least from a
    standpoint, where I’ll be (physically) so I can prepare myself mentally.” Read more...



    Excerpt: "For the Giants’ offense, the first
    half in Saturday’s
    victory over the Jets
    culminated with the biggest of big plays in a season
    littered with them. Eli Manning’s connection with Victor Cruz for a
    franchise-record 99-yard touchdown was the latest — and the longest — of the
    offense’s NFL-leading 16 passing plays of 40-plus yards this season.

    It was also one of the few signs of life the passing game has shown over the
    past two weeks.

    Since overcoming a 12-point deficit with 5:41 remaining against the Dallas
    Cowboys on Dec. 11, Manning has had his worst two-game stretch of the season —
    managing a 45.5 passer rating in the loss to the Washington Redskins and a 61.5
    rating against the Jets — after perhaps the best stretch of his career.

    Both teams were able to apply consistent pressure on Manning, sacking him
    five times and hitting him a number of other snaps. The Cowboys’ defense is of
    the same mold — aggressive and reliant on blitzes to apply pressure on the
    quarterback — but after torching the unit less than a month ago, it may be the
    best remedy for Manning and the Giants.

    And it will have to be if the Giants hope to not only win Sunday night and
    advance to the postseason, but also to advance once there.

    “We have to have some big plays, we have to make some things happen in order
    to change the momentum and keep the momentum in our favor throughout the course
    of the game,” Cruz said. “So I do see us having a lot of big plays and doing a
    lot of good things. We have to run the ball as well to keep the defense honest.
    I see a good mix of run and pass and big plays in there.”

    Prior to the record-breaking play, the Giants offense was running on fumes on
    Saturday. The unit possessed the ball over eight minutes fewer than the Jets and
    recorded just four first downs to the Jets’ 13. The run game had mustered only
    six yards on seven carries and outside of the touchdown to Cruz, Manning was
    just 6-of-17 for 82 yards.

    The Giants went on to score 19 points in the second half of their 29-14
    victory, but the surge was behind a rejuvenated running game, not the passing
    game as has been the case much of the season. Instead, Manning continued to
    struggle and finished just 9-of-27 for 225 yards with the touchdown to Cruz and
    an interception."


    "Victor Cruz's ascension to household name this season has been
    well-documented. A year after spending his rookie season on the injured reserve
    list, Cruz has emerged as one of the NFL's top big-play threats, consistently
    coming up with impact plays on a weekly basis throughout the season.

    As a result, the numbers have accumulated. He broke the Giants' all-time single-season record for
    receiving yards set by Amani Toomer in 2002 and is now second in the NFC in that
    category with 1358, fourth in yards per catch, tied for seventh in touchdowns,
    and arguably single-handedly kept the Giants' season alive with a
    momentum-shifting, franchise-record 99-yard touchdown reception to give the
    Giants a 10-7 lead it had no business having at halftime.

    He even has a signature touchdown dance to top it off.

    But in a conference loaded with top wide receivers, Cruz was left off the NFC
    Pro Bowl roster when it was announced Tuesday night. Instead, the established
    quartet of Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith and Greg Jennings were
    selected. Cruz was named a second alternate and he's just happy to be in the

    "Every guy that made it deserved it," Cruz said. "I don't feel snubbed. I'm
    happy to be here, I'm happy to even be in the conversation with the Pro Bowl and
    all that. It's just been an amazing ride this year."

    Being the second alternate, Cruz could very well be in Honolulu given the
    history of players pulling out of the game due to injury and other reasons
    (unless the Giants pull off a playoff run and are busy preparing for the Super

    Quarterback Eli Manning and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul were the two
    Giants players voted in. Guard Chris Snee is also a second alternate.

    The annual all-star game will be played on Jan. 29, one week before the Super


    "After playing more than 100 snaps against the Jets, Jason Pierre-Paul was
    very happy to see Osi Umenyiora on the practice field yesterday, taking some
    plays away from him.

    “Yeah, I need that rest,” Pierre-Paul said.

    And the Giants need Umenyiora, who
    hadn’t played or practiced since suffering a high-ankle sprain against the New
    Orleans Saints on Nov. 28. But given the enormity of Sunday’s game against the
    Dallas Cowboys plus this being perhaps his last chance to make an impression
    before another offseason push for a new contract, Umenyiora appears set to make
    his return.

    In top form, apparently.

    “He’s faster than ever,” linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said when asked how
    Umenyiora looked.

    Considering he has seven sacks in eight games this season, that’s promising
    for the Giants.

    “It means everybody is going to be fresher when they’re out there on the
    field,” Kiwanuka said. “He’s an All-Pro player, he’s a Pro Bowl guy. When you
    look at what he presents to an offensive tackle, it’s a completely different
    scenario than the other guys that we have in.

    “We have power guys, we have speed guys, we have our guys who can move around
    throughout the line. I think just the matchup, the adjustment during the course
    of the week, they’re going to have to prepare for another All-Pro player.”

    Umenyiora, who was listed as being limited yesterday, wasn’t in the locker
    room during the portion open to the media and hasn’t spoken with reporters since
    suffering the injury.

    “You can’t replace Osi Umenyiora,” Dave Tollefson said. “You can only keep
    the seat warm for a guy like that. Jason has been everything and plus some. The
    guy has played his butt off, he’s humble and he’s hungry, and now we get another
    Pro Bowl guy back? Come on. Could you ask for anything better?”

    DT Chris Canty, a Cowboy from 2005 through ’08, realizes
    what Sunday’s game will be about.

    “Obviously, a lot is made of the Cowboys-Washington Redskins rivalry, but
    when I was a member of that football team we knew the big game of the year was
    against the New York Giants,” he said.

    This one has to be extra special for Canty, who had the big play last week
    against the Jets in the form of a fourth-quarter safety. And after trying to
    talk about the team as a whole, he was asked again about what it means for him
    individually. He laughed and said three times, “There’s something there.”

    Kiwanuka said it was “rewarding” for the defense to bail out
    the offense last week after the reverse scenario played out much of this

    “If we play a complete game from beginning to end, we’ll pitch a shutout,”
    Kiwanuka said when asked if the defensive hiccups from the last matchup with
    Dallas have been fixed.

    RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) didn’t practice. As usual, he’ll
    probably get only one day of work this week.

    Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff (ribs) and LBs DeMarcus Ware
    (stinger) and Sean Lee (wrist/illness) didn’t practice yesterday but reports
    from Dallas are they should be back to work today."


    "Jake Ballard was told the normal recovery for his knee injury is 2 to 4

    “I’m trying to squeeze it into one,” the Giants’ tight end said today.

    So far, the results haven’t been so hot.

    Ballard, who suffered a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in the
    loss to the Redskins, ran on the side today as the rest of the team practiced.
    He anticipates doing the same on Thursday and isn’t sure if he’ll be able to
    practice at all this week.

    Ballard said once again he wouldn’t be able to play if the game were today.
    It’s not, so he has a few more days to get ready, but the fact he’s no closer to
    answering yes on that question isn’t a promising sign.

    “It’s not like a hand or something where you can play though it,” he said.
    “If I can’t run and get the job done, somebody else can do a better job. And I
    feel like some guys when they get hurt they push through it but they end up
    hurting their team because the healthy guy behind them might be able to run

    For the Giants, that guy would once again be Bear Pascoe, who did not have a
    catch against the Jets.

    Ballard said the call on whether he plays won’t be his. Working his way
    through a PCL issue could lead to further damage to his knee.

    “I wish it was my call: ‘Hey, I’m playing,’ and my knee would be fine,” he
    said. “But that’s not the case.”

    Ballard had a PCL issue during his time at Ohio State. It wasn’t much of a
    concern because he was mostly a blocking tight end.

    “I think I just wore a brace so all I could do was block. I didn’t run at
    all,” he said. “So I didn’t really treat it as well as I should have.”

    Asked if the Buckeyes’ medical staff would’ve allowed him to play through
    this issue, he grinned and said, “They would probably overlook some stuff: ‘Oh
    you can play.’”

    Ballard hopes the Giants’ staff will have a similar response by Sunday.

    “Yeah, right now it’s do or die,” he said. “It (stinks). It’s


    Excerpt: "Tony Romo wore a glove on his injured hand in practice today. There's a
    chance he'll do so again Thursday and he's worn it in games before, but he
    doesn't expect to do so on Sunday.

    And yes, the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback expects to play on Sunday against
    the Giants.

    "It's continuing to improve day by day," Romo said on a conference call
    minutes ago. "I was able to do some things with the ball we weren't sure about.
    It should be good to go."

    Romo, who was listed as being limited in practice today, played through
    broken ribs earlier this season and anticipates the hand won't give him as many
    problems as that injury did. But given this latest issue, the importance of the
    game and the setting, he believes the Giants will tighten up their coverage
    (from their recent zone-heavy schemes to man-to-man) and try to get after

    "They do it early in the game sometimes and they see where they can get away
    with it," Romo said. "I just think the fact we're going to be on the road and
    they're going to be at home, they're going to want to set a certain type of
    tempo and I think they're going to bring a little bit extra pressure and play
    some man coverages. That's just something that, in a game like this, they'll
    want to do."

    The last time these teams played it was a shootout: 37-34
    . Romo's hand and a few other factors could affect the style of play
    this time around.

    "You never know. You just go into the game knowing you're going to have to do
    what your team needs to try and find a win," Romo said. "You never know what the
    conditions are going to be. This time of the year up in New (Jersey) it could be
    anything. For us, it's a matter of executing each play and getting in the end
    zone as many times as you can.

    "It's a big game, it's important. This is why you play the game." Read more...



    Excerpt: "
    insisted on Wednesday that he will be fine, that his bruised, swollen
    right hand will be ready and able to hurl many spirals downfield against the
    Giants secondary he tore apart three weeks earlier in what became yet another
    big Dallas defeat.

    “It’s continuing to improve a little bit day by day,” said Romo, who
    practiced with a glove. “Should be good to go this weekend. The swelling
    continues to subside a little bit each day. I expect to play. When you play
    quarterback in the NFL, you understand you’re going to have bumps and bruises
    along the way.”

    Though no Giant would ever admit this, Romo’s almost certain participation on
    Sunday is not necessarily a terrible thing going into what amounts to the NFC
    East Championship on Sunday night. His grip may be loose, his accuracy
    unreliable. Romo is on a hot streak of late — 18 touchdowns and just three
    interceptions in the last eight games — yet he carries with him a reputation for
    chokes unmatched by any other elite NFL quarterback.

    Romo has been either very unlucky or very erratic in the most important
    situations. He is not Eli Manning, in other
    words, even if Romo is ranked fourth right now in the NFL quarterback ratings
    while Manning is ninth. With seasons on the line, Manning has been far more
    likely than Romo to engineer that final winning drive.

    “I wouldn’t rather have anyone else,” Antrel Rolle said
    Wednesday, of Manning. “I’ll take No. 10 and ride and die with him.”

    In the minds of teammates and fans, Manning is forever scrambling out of
    trouble against New England, throwing a fateful ball toward David
    ’s helmet and pulling off a Super Bowl miracle upset in the Arizona
    desert. He’s pulled off such theatrics time and again, this season against the
    Cowboys and Patriots.

    “He’s cool, calm and collected,” Victor Cruz said. “He’s
    been there, done it. He isn’t flustered. He never gets out of character or feels
    like he has to yell at you.”

    For Cowboy fans, memories of Romo in the biggest games are very different.
    It’s not as if Romo doesn’t do good things. He has a 47-28 record as a starter,
    22-14 on the road. He’s thrown more career touchdown passes in the fourth
    quarter, 43, than in any other period. Against the Giants on Dec. 11, he passed
    for 321 yards and four touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of
    141.3."


    "Hakeem Nicks believes
    his ability to get deep was zapped after he reinjured his hamstring in the first
    quarter Saturday against the Jets. But the receiver expects to be ready when the
    Giants face Dallas for the NFC East title Sunday night.

    “It’s all or nothing. It’s the playoffs now. So I don’t see myself missing
    it,” Nicks said after sitting out practice Wednesday. “You never know, these
    things are tricky, but I don’t see myself missing this game . . . I ain’t the
    type of guy that looks for no excuses. If I am out there, I’ve got to be ready
    to go.”

    Nicks has had multiple drops in his past two games, and he was limited to
    just one catch for 20 yards while covered often by Darrelle Revis in
    the Giants’ 29-14 win on Christmas Eve.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s as bad (as earlier this season), but it’s definitely
    there,” said Nicks, who initially injured his hamstring in Week 2 and then
    missed the New England game Nov. 6 with the same injury. “I couldn’t dig the way
    I wanted to, and honestly, it took away the deep part of my game. . . . But I
    wanted to stay out there, because I know even my presence out there can still
    help us as far as the run game.”

    Tom Coughlin credited
    Nicks for remaining in the game, but noted that he “really didn’t have that
    other gear, which you probably observed.”

    Coughlin added he was “optimistic right now” that both Nicks and Mario Manningham
    will play Sunday. The latter returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday
    after missing the Jets game with a knee injury.

    Nicks had eight catches for a season-high 163 yards and Manningham scored a
    47-yard touchdown in the Giants’ 37-34 comeback win Dec. 11 in Dallas.

    Jake Ballard (knee)
    also did some side work Wednesday, and Coughlin said he’s “holding out hope” the
    tight end will play.

    Victor Cruz insisted he
    wasn’t disappointed to be tabbed as a second alternate to the Pro Bowl. The
    breakout receiver would prefer not to go to Hawaii anyway.

    “I wasn’t tripping. It was cool. I understood,” Cruz said. “The goal is to
    make it to the Super Bowl, so I won’t be playing in the Pro Bowl anyway.”

    Cruz, who has set a team record with 1,358 receiving yards on 76 catches,
    also claimed he grew up “a pretty avid Cowboy fan” in Paterson, N.J., adding
    that he owned a Deion Sanders

    “I think about my Dad all the time. He was the one that made me a Cowboy
    fan,” Cruz said of his father, Mike Walker, who died
    in 2007. “It’s going to be one of those games you dream about playing in your
    whole life, and I’m excited to make some big plays against them and to
    potentially get this win.”

    Antrel Rolle on NBC
    analyst Cris Collinsworth
    telling the Daily News he’d apologize to the Giant safety “if I’m proven wrong”
    for saying Rolle was “barbecued” on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in the
    previous Dallas game:

    “I don’t care what he thinks. I don’t need his apology. His apology means
    nothing to me, nor was I looking for an apology,” Rolle said. “I made my
    statement, I stand by my statement, and my statement was very accurate. But that
    was three weeks ago. We’ve moved on from that.”

    Without naming Collinsworth, Rolle fired back at the time at “commentators”
    who talk like “they know what they’re talking about, but in reality they don’t
    half of the time.”


    "The Giants keep insisting that they are “all in” for their winner-take-all
    finale against the Cowboys, and apparently they’re not kidding. Even Osi
    looks like he’s “in” this week.

    The oft-injured, occasionally disgruntled defensive end sent a jolt of energy
    through the Giants’ defense on Wednesday when he stepped on the practice field
    for the first time since he injured his ankle in late November. He was
    officially “limited,” but Mathias Kiwanuka
    said he looked “as fast as ever.”

    And for a team that likes to say it can never have enough pass rushers — and
    sometimes lines up four defensive ends on the field together — the return of the
    two-time Pro Bowler couldn’t have come at a better time.

    “This is it, right?” said defensive end Dave
    . “Win you’re in, lose you go home. You might as well pull out all
    the stops and get everybody rolling, you know?”

    “All hands on deck,” added linebacker Michael
    . “There’s no better way to put it.”

    The Giants (8-7) are clearly expecting that Umenyiora will be able to play
    against the Cowboys (8-7) on Sunday night, but they won’t know for sure until
    they see how his ankle responds to his first practice in more than a month. He
    suffered the injury on Nov. 28 in New Orleans when a teammate rolled onto his
    leg, and he was forced to miss the next four games.

    In his absence, Jason Pierre-Paul
    has taken over with five sacks, 29 tackles, a forced fumble and a blocked field
    goal in the last three games, alone. Two times in the last three weeks —
    including for his performance last Saturday against the Jets — Pierre-Paul was
    named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week and, on Tuesday, he was named to the
    NFC Pro Bowl team.

    With Umenyiora back, Pierre-Paul — the Giants’ best defensive player — would
    become their top reserve. Pierre-Paul, though, said that’s “good” because “Now I
    get a chance to rest.” And with a deeper pass rush, they all should be fresher
    late in the game.

    “(Pierre-Paul) has been everything and plus-some,” Tollefson said. “Now we
    get another Pro Bowl guy back? I mean, come on, could you ask for anything
    better? It’s not like we had to sign some guy off the street.” Read more..


    Excerpt: "It has all come down to one winner-take-the-NFC East Cowboys-Giants clash at
    MetLife Stadium. And bruised hand or not, Tony Romo doesn’t plan to
    miss it.

    That was the message the Dallas quarterback had for his team Wednesday. Just
    four days after hurting his right hand in a loss to the Eagles, Romo returned to
    practice Afterward, he said he expects to play Sunday.

    “We should be good to go for this weekend,” Romo said.

    Romo did not take his full load of snaps during a limited session, coach Jason Garrett said,
    but he did show progress. He is still battling swelling in the hand, but he
    threw the ball solidly, much to his own surprise.

    “Today was good,” Romo said. “I was able to do some things with the ball that
    we weren’t sure about, so it was a good start to the work. We are going to keep
    working on it and get all the treatment and stuff. We should be good to go for
    this weekend.”

    “I couldn’t even tell he was hurt,” added wideout Laurent Robinson.
    “We’re very confident that he’ll be ready.”

    Garrett cautioned, however, that Romo isn’t yet ready for game action. The
    coach said that Romo had “a good day today,” but he added that the QB “still
    needs to make some progress on the thing.” Romo was also unsure of how his
    injured hand would handle a full game of QB-center exchanges.

    “We are doing some different things during the week,” he said. “The game is
    not until Sunday, so we have a lot of time to get it right so you feel
    better.”



    Excerpt: "How about those Cowboys … fans?

    That’s the major problem Brandon Jacobs has with the team that stands in the
    way of the Giants winning the NFC East and making the playoffs.

    The Giants, especially Justin Tuck, aren’t shy about expressing their hatred
    of the Cowboys. Now Jacobs explains why he isn’t a big fan: Because of the
    Cowboys fans.

    “The reason that a lot of guys on opposing teams hate the Cowboys is their
    fans,’’ Jacobs said Thursday afternoon. “So many of their fans are loud and
    obnoxious. Everywhere you go you got some Dallas fans and they’re just like
    running their mouth about Dallas and keep going. It’s not really the team and
    the star and all that because they’re just like any other team in the National
    Football League, but their fans are the ones who have me feeling the way I feel.
    That’s my issue.”

    Throughout the NFC East and the NFL, Eagles fans are renowned as perhaps the
    most difficult group to deal with, but Jacobs ranks Cowboys fans at the top of
    the heap.

    “I’m not talking about being a fan of the team and going out actually at the
    game and doing the type of stuff they do in Philly,’’ Jacobs explained. “I’m
    just talking about in everyday life, Cowboys fans get on my


    "Osi Umenyiora knows exactly what he is.

    “I’m not a power rusher or any of that,’’ the Giants defensive end said
    Thursday afternoon. “My thing is speed and if I don’t have that I’m not going to
    be able to go.’’

    Clearly, Umenyiora believes he has his speed back after missing the past four
    games with a high ankle sprain. He’s determined to play in Sunday’s playoff
    elimination game against the Cowboys.

    “I feel like I can help,’ Umenyiora said, “and that’s exactly what I plan on

    Umenyiora for the first time in a month got back on the practice field
    Wednesday but said he did much more to test his ankle Thursday. So far, so good.
    The pass rusher would not say if he will play in the game, deferring that
    announcement to coach Tom Coughlin, but made it clear what is going to happen
    this weekend.

    “My gut feeling? We’re not really allowed to answer questions like that,’’
    Umenyiora said. “I have to defer to coach Coughlin about that.’’

    Umenyiora then smiled and whispered, “Yes.’’

    Umenyiora has seven sacks in the eight games he’s played this season but said
    he should not start at right defensive end in place of Jason Pierre-Paul, who as
    a replacement has 15 1/2 sacks and earlier this week was named to his first Pro

    Pierre-Paul turns 23 on Sunday and said he’d like to start.

    “He deserves to be the starter, there’s no question about it,’’ Umenyiora
    said. “The guys playing at as high a level at defensive end as I’ve seen in a
    long time and I’ve been here a long time. He deserves to be the starter.
    Whatever this team needs for me to do, whether that’s come in and spot him or
    (Justin) Tuck, whatever they need me to do I’ll do, I don’t have a problem with

    Umenyiora said, “I don’t expect to play a whole bunch of plays but when I’m
    in there I’m gonna come as hard as I can.’’

    He said he considers himself fortunate to be able to return in time for the
    most critical game of the season after initially fearing he might not play

    “I thought so, honestly, for a while,’’ Umenyiora said. “Everybody who’s had
    the same type of high ankle sprain that I’ve had has told me it’s a 4-6 week
    recovery time,. I’ve seen other guys who had the same injury try to come back,
    like a Sam Bradford and Ben Roethlisberger, it just seemed they were completely
    off, so I was concerned about that. After last week things started to improve a
    little bit and hopefully everything will work out for me on


    "Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said he’s is playing in Sunday’s
    winner-take-all game against the Cowboys, with first place in the NFC East on
    the line, the playoffs for the winner and elimination for the loser.

    “I have no doubt in my mind, I’m playing,’’ Nicks said Thursday. “I know
    that. It’s all or nothing.’’

    Nicks, dealing with a strained hamstring, did some running on the side inside
    the fieldhouse while the Giants practiced. Nicks even did a few backpedals,
    though he rested and tested his strained hamstring, not participating in any
    aspect of practice.

    This is no surprise at all. Nicks on Wednesday said he would not push himself
    for a few days, hoping to strengthen his hamstring as much as possible, and
    hoped to get on the field in some capacity Friday.

    “We just wanted to see where it was at by just striding it out a little bit,
    it was all right,’’ Nicks said. “It’s a situation where you know it’s gonna be
    there, it ain’t gonna just eventually go overnight. Just a matter of me playing
    with it. Luckily I played with it before, I finished last game with it, just got
    to make sure I take care of it and have no setbacks at this point.’’

    Nicks has been bothered by hamstring issues since the second week of the
    season. He missed the Nov. 6 victory in New England because the hamstring was
    fully strained and he re-injured the hamstring late in the first quarter of last
    week’s victory over the Jets. Nicks stayed in the game, got his hamstring
    wrapped at halftime, but was not effective at all, with one catch for 20 yards.
    He said he could not get off the line of scrimmage with any consistency and his
    ailing leg did not allow him to run any deep routes.

    “I know what I’m working with now,’’ Nicks said. “We know how to game-plan
    around it or within it, hopefully it won’t limit my game, hopefully it won’t
    limit my burst and I’ll be able to get down the field and make plays for us.
    It’s a matter of playing with it and being tough, gutting it out.’’

    The other hurting offensive player, tight end Jake Ballard, did not practice.
    He did make an appearance on the field, standing in place and catching a few
    passes during one drill, but he was not wearing pads and was going to sit out
    practice again.

    Ballard is trying to fast-forward the healing process after partially tearing
    the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against the Redskins on Dec.
    18. Ballard ran on Wednesday but Tom Coughlin said the medical staff did not
    feel Ballard was up to running again a day later.

    Two other players who did not practice Wednesday – running back Ahmad
    Bradshaw and rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich – sat out again. Bradshaw, who
    rarely practices during the week to ease the strain on his foot, is expected to
    work Friday. Herzlich did some running on the side.

    The positive sign for the Giants is that for the second straight day, defensive
    end Osi Umenyiora
    and receiver Mario Manningham were on the field again,
    working on a limited basis. Manningham missed last week’s game vs. the Jets with
    ongoing issues with his knee and, along with Umenyiora, appears to be on target
    to play Sunday night."



    "If speed kills, the Giants might be about to bust-up the Cowboys, because it
    sure looks as if they will have their rocket back and ready for blast-off.

    That Osi Umenyiora, for the first time in a month, yesterday was actually on
    the field came as a surprise just five days before the showdown of all
    showdowns, Sunday night against the Cowboys with the NFC East title going to
    whichever team proves capable of grabbing onto the prize.

    Even more astonishing than his return are the reports of how Umenyiora, gone
    so long with a debilitating high ankle sprain, looked upon his return.

    “As fast as ever,’’ linebacker
    Mathias Kiwanuka

    “He looked good, man,’’ echoed defensive end Dave Tollefson. “When does he
    not look good? Osi’s a great athlete. He looked great.’’

    Umenyiora doesn’t look good when he’s riding a stationary bicycle off on the
    side or when he’s sitting on his couch watching the Giants try to nail the
    quarterback without him.


    After missing four consecutive games since coming away from the dreadful Nov.
    28 loss in New Orleans with a severe ankle injury, there was almost no
    expectation that Umenyiora would be able to return for the final regular-season
    game, even a contest with so much riding on it. Sources close to Umenyiora said
    he has been unable to push off the ankle and he would not play until it was
    stronger and more stable.

    When Tom Coughlin in the
    morning was asked about Umenyiora, it seemed like a throwaway question designed
    to get the requisite “Not today’’ response.

    “Osi’s gonna practice today,’’ Coughlin said matter-of-factly.

    Indeed, he did, listed as limited participation but by all indications
    looking fresh and quick, ready to take aim at Tony Romo and add some fuel to a defensive front and
    pass rush that got its act together last week, dropping Mark Sanchez five times in a 29-14 victory over the

    “It would be pretty impeccable timing to get everyone healthy and kind of
    running on one accord,’’ Tollefson said.

    On most teams, a healthy Umenyiora would be re-inserted into the lineup, no
    questions asked — but the Giants are not most teams. Umenyiora missed the first
    three games of the season coming back from knee surgery and has been out the
    last four. The Giants came up with a fairly decent replacement at right
    defensive end.

    Jason Pierre-Paul in his second NFL season emerged as a star, fourth in the
    NFL with 15 1/2 sacks, named earlier this week to his first Pro Bowl and yesterday honored as the NFC Defensive
    Player of the Week for wreaking havoc on the Jets."

    “It’s like 1A and 1B with those two,’’ defensive tackle Chris Canty said. “Both of ’em can get after the
    quarterback, it’s a tremendous asset when you have that caliber of pass rushers
    on the field. It’s just going to be more bullets in the gun for
    us.’’


    Excerpt: "Giants fans will need to hold their breath on this one.

    Eli Manning’s go-to receiver not named Victor Cruz is Nicked Up.

    “If I’m out there, I’d like to say I’d be myself, but you never know,” Hakeem Nicks said. “These things are
    tricky. I’m gonna go ahead and claim I’ll be myself out there. I always got to
    think positive.”

    If I’m out there are four words that ought to send shudders down the
    spine of every Giants fan.

    “I don’t see myself missing this game,” Nicks said.

    Tom Coughlin and Manning are similarly optimistic. But Nicks sat out
    yesterday’s practice with the hamstring he strained against the Jets. Manning
    will be hard-pressed to win a shootout with Tony Romo on Sunday night if Nicks
    is hamstrung in any capacity, or worse, if he suffers a setback during The Game
    of Games.

    “I notice it, I can’t really dig like I want to right now,” Nicks said.

    Asked if he expects to be 100 percent Sunday night, Nicks said: “Close to 100
    percent as I can get. I don’t think nobody’s gonna be 100 percent playing
    football this time of year. Something’s gonna be nagging, something’s gonna be
    hurting, but come game time, you know how to put all that stuff behind you.”

    Come game time, you won’t even think about it?

    “No. If I’m playing, I’m not thinking about it,” Nicks said. “Out of sight,
    out of mind.”

    It may have been out of sight against the Jets, but it was not out of mind
    for Nicks, who didn’t have time for his extensive pregame stretching regimen,
    once his hamstring began barking in the first quarter.

    “I didn’t really have no burst,” Nicks said. “I couldn’t really do my
    releases how I wanted to off the line of scrimmage, showing favoritism to it
    ’cause I didn’t want to pull it. I’m not the one to make excuses. If I’m out
    there, I’m out there. You’re gonna get anything I can give you.”

    Nicks said he is hopeful he will have his burst back against the Cowboys, and
    Manning needs him to be more than a decoy against that suspect secondary.

    “That’s the plan, that’s why I’m taking it easy this week,” Nicks said. “I’m
    usually a fast healer so ... looking forward to being out there.”

    He is hoping to go through a limited practice today.

    “I don’t expect me to have full-out practice, “ Nicks said.

    If his hamstring holds up — big if, considering he missed the Patriots game
    in November because of the same hamstring — Nicks will expect to dominate.

    “I just know how I bounce back,” Nicks said. “I know myself, I know my game
    and how I play. These last two weeks haven’t been my best. And plus, I was
    always told the bigger the stage the better I play, and I feel like that as well
    so ... This is a big-stage game, and we know what’s at task, and we want to get
    to the playoffs, and I definitely do as well so we just gotta come out here and
    make it happen.”

    But he made only one catch for 20 yards happen on Revis Island as he spent a
    good part of his sideline time getting stretched in front of the heater after
    getting a halftime wrap for support.

    “I couldn’t really go deep,” Nicks said. “Just wanted to stay out there
    because I know even my presence out there can still help us out as far as on the
    run game or not just clouding one side.”

    Nicks, whose large hands have become legendary around the Giants, has been
    plagued recently by the dropsies.

    “I just need to [get] back down to the basics for myself personally, looking
    the ball all the way in,” he said. “Sometimes I get carried away too fast, I try
    to make a move without the ball. But with these last two games, the weather’s
    been playing a factor, so I’ve gotta do a better part of looking the ball
    in.”


    Excerpt: "The fact that the Cowboys have fans all around the world is nothing new.

    What’s unusual is that a player who will be trying to knock America’s Team
    out of playoff contention Sunday was — and perhaps still is — one of them.

    Giants wideout Victor Cruz
    confessed yesterday to a raging, lifelong love of the Cowboys — the team he
    will line up against this weekend at MetLife Stadium with the NFC East title and
    a trip to the postseason on the line.

    How much of a Dallas devotee was (and perhaps still is) Cruz? He appeared to
    accidentally refer to the Cowboys as “we” when describing how upset he was at
    Big Blue’s sweep of Dallas in 2009 — the year before he made the Giants’ roster
    as an undrafted free agent.

    “I was pretty upset when we lost to the Giants a couple of years back when I
    was in college,” said Cruz, a Paterson, N.J., native. “I was pretty upset for a

    Cruz said he has no split NFL loyalties now that he is a rising star for the
    Giants and among the league’s leaders in receptions (76) and receiving yards

    But Cruz, who said he wore a No. 21 Cowboys jersey with Deion Sanders’ name
    on it all the way through college, sounded as if he wished the Giants’ road to
    the playoffs Sunday didn’t have to go through his former favorite team.

    “Being a former Cowboy fan, there’s none of that hatred there just yet,” Cruz
    said. “You understand the rivalry and you understand that a lot of Giants fans
    don’t like the Cowboys. I just want to win, regardless of how I feel about the
    other team.”

    Cruz’s love of the Cowboys came from his late father, Michael Walker, whom he
    described as “Cowboys fan since birth” thanks to Dallas’ glory days of Roger
    Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Drew
    in the 1970s.

    Because of that father-son bond, Cruz said Walker will be at the forefront of
    his mind during the game Sunday night.

    “It’s going to be one of those games you dream about playing in your whole
    life, getting the chance to make plays against them,” Cruz said.

    Cruz never had a chance to visit Texas Stadium before it was demolished two
    years ago, but he said getting to play in the Cowboys’ palatial new home was a

    “To be there, in that stadium, in that setting, was an amazing feeling,” he
    said. “I had goosebumps going into that game. It was huge for


    "Tom Coughlin is usually the bearer of bad news when it comes to announcing
    which players he anticipates will miss practice that day and yesterday he said
    two receivers, Hakeem Nicks and
    Mario Manningham, would sit out. Coughlin was half right and pleasantly

    Nicks, dealing with a strained hamstring, did not work, but Manningham,
    bothered for weeks by a sore and swollen knee, was able to participate on a
    limited basis. That bodes well for Manningham’s availability for Sunday’s game
    against the Cowboys, given that he did not practice at all last week and missed
    the 29-14 victory over the Jets.

    The news is not quite as promising for tight end Jake Ballard, who is dealing
    with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He did not
    practice, but Coughlin said he is “improving.’’ Ballard, who did not play
    against the Jets, was able to run on the side and do some soft cuts, which is
    more than he did at any time last week.

    Running back Ahmad Bradshaw
    (foot) and linebacker Mark Herzlich (ankle) also missed practice.

    * Safety Antrel Rolle is adamant that the quality of
    practice last Wednesday had a direct impact on the performance vs. the Jets.
    Rolle did not offer a review of yesterday’s practice.

    “I’m not here to give a daily report of how practice goes. That’s up to
    Coach,’’ Rolle said. “We’re working, that’s the best thing I can give you. We’re
    working hard and we have our eyes on the prize.’’

    * LB Mathias Kiwanuka believes the defense can do a number
    on the Cowboys.

    “If we play a complete game from beginning to end we’ll pitch a shutout,’’ he

    * Coughlin, who was run into by RB D.J. Ware against the
    Jets and came away with a painful left leg injury, said he received a text
    message from Saints coach Sean Payton, who on Oct. 16 tore
    ligaments and broke a bone in his left leg after getting hit by his own tight
    end, Jimmy Graham. The message? “You look like you’re a better
    athlete than me. You didn’t go down.’’

    * Cowboys LB Sean Lee
    (wrist/illness), NT Jay Ratliff (ribs), S
    Danny McCray (ankle) and LB DeMarcus Ware
    (neck) did not practice. Ware plans to practice today."



    Excerpt: "Hakeem Nicks left little doubt.

    "I’m playing," he told reporters Wednesday after sitting out practice with a
    hamstring strain. "It is all or nothing. It is [the] playoffs now."

    But the question for the Giants’ receiver – as well as Mario Manningham and
    tight end Jake Ballard – is not simply will they play Sunday night against the
    Cowboys, but how effective will they be if they do suit up.

    Three of Eli Manning’s top four receivers are hobbled, with Nicks the latest
    to end up on the injury report. He aggravated his hamstring in the Christmas Eve
    victory over the Jets, an injury that has lingered since Week 2 and kept him out
    of the Nov. 6 victory over the Patriots.

    The Giants beat the Cowboys earlier this month by throwing for 400 yards, and
    the injured trio accounted for 268 of them.

    Ballard has not practiced since he partially tore the posterior cruciate
    ligament in his knee in the Dec. 18 loss to the Redskins. Although he did run
    outside, he did not practice.

    The Giants did get positive news with Manningham, who unexpectedly practiced
    on a limited basis after coach Tom Coughlin said he would not.

    Coughlin was "optimistic that [Nicks and Manningham] will be ready to go"
    Sunday. He was less certain about Ballard, saying he was "holding out hope."

    The responsibility would fall to Bear Pascoe and Travis Beckum if Ballard is
    sidelined. Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan and Devin Thomas could see more
    playing time at receiver.

    Nicks said his hamstring strain "is definitely there, and I can’t really dig
    like I want to right now."


    Excerpt: "Sometimes, when the football stars align and the game conditions allow, even a
    jaded NFL veteran player finds himself turning into a regular football fan. Just
    a few weeks ago in Dallas, Antrel Rolle felt it happen to him.

    Being a sideline observer to yet another display of fourth quarter Eli
    Manning magic can do that to you.

    “You almost forget you’re a teammate. You get almost starstruck by seeing him
    doing what he’s doing,” Rolle said Wednesday after the Giants practiced for
    their NFC East all-or-nothing Sunday night rematch with the Cowboys. “I wouldn’t
    rather have anyone else. I’ll take ‘10’ and ride and die with him.”

    The dramatic season-ender between these heated rivals sets up as a stage for
    a few more acts of quarterback stardom. If Manning has won over his team with
    clutch performances and calm stewardship, his Cowboys’ counterpart Tony Romo has
    won over his team with gritty toughness. Both will have to overcome major
    obstacles to win this decisive game – Manning with injuries to his receiving
    corps and Romo with an injury to his throwing hand – but recent history says one
    of them will find a way.

    That the Giants are playing for the right to continue playing is a direct
    result of last weekend’s emotional win over the Jets, but the roots of this
    virtual playoff run go back to Week 14, to the thrilling 37-34 victory in Dallas
    that went down to the game’s final seconds. If Jason Pierre-Paul was the
    immediate hero for blocking Dallas’ last-ditch field goal attempt, Manning was
    the MVP for leading two touchdown drives in the final 5:41.

    Manning covered a total of 138 yards in 14 plays, scoring an 8-yard touchdown
    to Jake Ballard with 2:27 left before handing off for a 1-yard touchdown by
    Brandon Jacobs with :51 remaining. He was in total control, covering 122 of the
    yards in the air, completing 8 of 11 passes on the two drives. He kept the
    huddle calm and focused, authoring an endgame scenario second only to the late
    drive that out-Bradied Tom Brady earlier this season in New England.

    “Eli’s drive against Dallas was huge, No. 1 or 2 in there next to the
    Patriots one,” receiver Victor Cruz said. “It was big, down two scores, for him
    to get us to score quickly, get a stop on defense, and score again. Nothing
    stresses him out. You know ‘E’ – he’s calm, doesn’t yell, he just gets us to
    line up and execute. He never gets out of character.

    “It’s so good to have a guy that’s experienced in those situations. He
    doesn’t panic or get overly frustrated.”

    All signs point to Sunday’s win-or-go-home game following the pattern that
    has defined both the Giants and Cowboys this season – play to the final whistle.
    These familiar combatants come to Sunday’s battle with similar profiles – strong
    passing offenses, reliable efficient quarterbacks, porous overmatched
    secondaries, and desperate, dire motives.

    “A 60-minute game, no way around it,” defensive tackle Chris Canty said.
    “This is not going to be a lopsided game.”

    But for Pierre-Paul’s special teams’ play, Canty’s defense would have been on
    the wrong end of Romo’s late heroics. The oft-maligned Cowboy quarterback drove
    51 yards in 41 seconds to earn Dallas a 47-yard field goal try with six seconds
    to go. When a perfectly timed Tom Coughlin timeout iced away an initially
    successful attempt by rookie kicker Dan Bailey, Pierre-Paul erased the second
    attempt and the Giants escaped with the win.

    Canty all but scoffed at the popular notion that Sunday’s game will play out
    in the same backyard football format, where the last quarterback with the ball
    will end up going home with the win. “I’m a defensive player, I believe defense
    wins. If the other guy doesn’t score, he can’t win,” he said. If his prediction
    turns out to be accurate, it’s likely because of the hurdles Manning and Romo
    are facing this week.

    Manning could be without three of his top four targets, with No. 1 receiver
    Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) an unexpected addition to the injury report Wednesday.
    Nicks probably has a better shot at playing than holdover hobblers Jake Ballard
    (knee) and Mario Manningham (knee), but if not, Manning is left with Victor Cruz
    and the likes of Ramses Barden, Devin Thomas, Travis Beckum, Jerrel Jernigan and
    Bear Pascoe.'


  • #2

    thank you sir for all your hard work and effort. I am new to the boards and its nice to see that someone takes on the job of posting all this information....


    • #3

      Why does it seem they can never get a break with injuries? Looks like Ballard is not going to play and now Nicks is bother by a hamstring injury. At least it is supposed to be warm that day so hopefully it wont be to cold at night.

      Honestly I hope they run for 200 yards and just tire out the defense.


      • #4

        [quote user="Buckeroo"]thank you sir for all your hard work and effort. I am new to the boards and its nice to see that someone takes on the job of posting all this information....[/quote]

        [Y] Catchy name
        “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


        • #5
          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2011 - 10:00 A.M.

          [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="Buckeroo"]thank you sir for all your hard work and effort. I am new to the boards and its nice to see that someone takes on the job of posting all this information....[/quote]

          [Y] Catchy name

          it is isnt it.....

          "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
          You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch


          • #6
            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2011 - 10:00 A.M.

            [quote user="buddy33"]Why does it seem they can never get a break with injuries? Looks like Ballard is not going to play and now Nicks is bother by a hamstring injury. At least it is supposed to be warm that day so hopefully it wont be to cold at night.

            Honestly I hope they run for 200 yards and just tire out the defense.[/quote]

            It's a puzzle, that's for sure. But Nicks will play and we need Manningham to play well. Even if Nicks is just able to be a decoy, he commands a lot of attention when he's on the field. The defense may well surprise us all on Sunday.

            I can't help but think Tuck, JPP and Osi are going to have monster games. The loss of their starting left guard is going to cause problems for Romo. I just have the sense that we are going to finally have 60 full minutes of football in all three phases of the game on Sunday. if only Hixon were our return man.....

            “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


            • #7
              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2011 - 10:00 A.M.

              [quote user="GameTime"]

              [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="Buckeroo"]thank you sir for all your hard work and effort. I am new to the boards and its nice to see that someone takes on the job of posting all this information....[/quote]

              [Y] Catchy name

              it is isnt it.....


              Ambidextrous today lol
              “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


              • #8
                Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2011 - 10:00 A.M.

                [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="GameTime"]

                [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="Buckeroo"]thank you sir for all your hard work and effort. I am new to the boards and its nice to see that someone takes on the job of posting all this information....[/quote]

                [Y] Catchy name

                it is isnt it.....


                Ambidextrous today lol

                call me

                "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
                You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch


                • #9
                  Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2011 - 10:00 A.M.

                  [quote user="GameTime"][quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="GameTime"]

                  [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="Buckeroo"]thank you sir for all your hard work and effort. I am new to the boards and its nice to see that someone takes on the job of posting all this information....[/quote]

                  [Y] Catchy name

                  it is isnt it.....


                  Ambidextrous today lol

                  call me


                  “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                  • #10
                    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2011 - 10:00 A.M.

                    I concur, I have a feeling that we are going to play an entire 60 minutes of complete football this Sunday. JPP is going to run wild on his birthday and Romo will be sacked multiple times.

                    Let's host a playoff game!