The Giants returned to work Tuesday with a different feel in the air than last week, following Sunday’s preseason loss to the Colts. Perhaps it had to do with all of the walking wounded around the facilities — or more like limping wounded.
Among the more worrisome sights were wideout Victor Cruz, who is dealing with a heel contusion, and center David Baas, who is labeled as being out “week to week” as he’s dealing with a knee sprain. Both starters were wearing protective gear (Cruz a walking boot and Baas a knee brace), while also tottering to the podium using crutches.
While it’s highly unlikely either will see any more preseason action, both are holding out hope they’ll be ready to go for the Giants’ regular season opener, a primetime battle against the Cowboys on Sept. 8.
Baas’s plight appears more serious than Cruz’s, who explained that there wasn’t any tears or structural damage to his heel in the MRI. The center’s situation, however, looks like it could be something that’ll need at least a month to fully heal.
The burly center, though, is saying he’d like to be back for the Cowboys game, even as those around the facilities think that it doesn’t look good.
“I was frustrated the other day and I am over it. I know I can bounce back from this the way I have everything else,” said Baas. “I think it is [attainable playing the opener], and that is what I expect. Obviously I am going to follow the doctor's orders, so that’s why we have to take it week by week, see how it’s progressing. ... It’s kind of one of those annoying things I have to let heal. I just want to be ready for my team.”
If Baas isn’t ready, the “next man up” philosophy kicks in, which means it’ll be either third-year veteran Jim Cordle or eighth-year vet Kevin Boothe at center.
Neither of the two will be overwhelmed if thrust into action, particularly Boothe, who has switched between both guard spots and center on numerous occasions as a Giant. Cordle has done the same, and the coaching staff has sung praises for both players over the years for their versatility, so let the best man win the job.
“I don’t know what coach has planned for us. It wouldn’t surprise me if we worked a bunch of different combinations this week,” said Boothe. “It doesn’t matter [because] I’ve played center quite a bit. I’m up for anything.”
If Boothe is moved to center, right tackle David Diehl — who was sporting a cast on his right hand — could play left guard, with either rookie Justin Pugh or James Brewer at right tackle. If Boothe is moved to center and Diehl stays at his customary right tackle position, either Pugh or Brewer could then step in at left guard.
The starting offensive line unit during Tuesday’s session consisted of Will Beatty at left tackle, Diehl at left guard, Boothe at center, Chris Snee at right guard and Pugh at right tackle. That could all change as the week progresses, but for the time being, head coach Tom Coughlin said this is the look Big Blue will use.
"It’s the best way for us to play right now,” said Coughlin. “We’re just trying to get the group on the field now that can work together, hopefully, and prepare for the regular season."
Diehl agreed that all is so fluid, but he added that’s just the way it is in the NFL — especially on the line where the physicality and brutality is intensified.
“Work. I mean, that’s the only way you can [adjust to the shuffling]. There’s going to be ups and downs, [and] there’s injuries. That’s the sport that we chose,” Diehl said. “But I know the group that we’ve got. I know our coaches. We’re going to rally around, we’re going to work to improve and it starts right here on the practice field and breaking things down. ... We’re excited. Guys were here [Monday] on their day off, watching the game film, watching everything, and we’re all doing the same thing because we want to come back out here today and get things right.”
Big Blue notes ...
» Cordle got a laugh from the media when he was explaining the difference between being the starting center with the first unit and being one of the older guys as the starting center with the second unit.
“With the ones I can’t get the line calls out fast enough. Boothe and [Chris] Snee are making the call,” Cordle said. “When I’m with the second group, they’re waiting on me to make the call. But those guys [veterans] are making calls before I can even get up to the line. … When you go from the second team to first team, there’s a step up in competition. I think that’s all it is. You have to be ready for that.”
Cordle credited defensive tackle Linval Joseph for preparing him for the chance to battle top-flight interior lineman, considering Joseph is arguably the strongest player on the team.
“Getting reps in practice against our [starting] guys, and going up against Linval Joseph in practice is really hard,” Cordle said. “He practices really hard during an NFL week and he’s really good. I give a lot of credit to Linval for getting me ready for this year.”
Cordle also thinks these next two preseason games are momentous in his young career.
“We’ve got some veterans and we’ve got some young guys that have been drafted behind me, so I think these two games are definitely critical,” Cordle said. “They’re definitely going to make or break me.”
» Among the injured/missing at practice included defensive end Adrian Tracy leaving practice early with dehydration, and wideouts Louis Murphy (sore leg) and Ramses Barden (knee) both sitting out the session.
» Former Cowboy Dan Connor worked with the first team at middle linebacker, ahead of Mark Herzlich, who was a mainstay as the starting “MIKE” for most of camp.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.