If Hakeem Nicks can be as elusive on the field as he is with the media, the Giants will have one of the league’s most explosive offenses this season.
The problem, however, is that Nicks has yet to elude the training table yet, as the maligned and injury-riddled wideout has mainly been a spectator at camp in recent days.
Nicks, who has successfully managed to dodge media requests for most of the early portion of training camp, was finally corralled over the weekend to discuss his nagging groin injury, as the Giants prepare to take on the Steelers in their preseason opener on Saturday.
While Big Blue fans and the coaching staff alike are getting antsy with Nicks’s progression, the former Pro Bowl receiver said he’s “not stressed or worried” about his current status with a groin issue that has kept him out of strenuous workouts since last Thursday.
The star receiver minimized a groin strain that had him sitting on the sidelines for Sunday’s session, riding a stationary bike, and said his timetable looks more like a return to action on Tuesday since the Giants are off on Monday.
“I wouldn’t even categorize it as an injury. I think it’s just being smart, coming off the problems that I had last year with the knee and the foot,” said Nicks. “I just don’t want it to be nothing ongoing, so we’re just going to take it [slow]. ... I’ll be back out there as soon as they let me. I think it will be in another day or two.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin agreed with Nicks’s diagnosis, saying team doctors have told him they think Nicks should be ready to practice on Tuesday.
“If it was a game-planning situation and we were going into Week 1, I definitely don’t think I’d be sitting out or nothing like that,” Nicks said. “Just being so early in training camp, we just want to be smart about it.”
While Nicks insists he isn’t frustrated with the proceedings, it doesn’t mean everyone at the facilities is fine with the time missed. Coughlin said all the right things about the way Nicks is handling his progression, and said he is “not frustrated” with his wideout, but his body language said otherwise.
“Certainly, I want to see him on the field and he wants to be on the field. It’s frustrating, but I’ve got to learn to control myself when it comes to that as well and just realize he’s trying like heck to get out there and he knows he needs to practice and work,” said Coughlin. “He came in [to camp] excited about being able to go and then he had this little groin injury, which I hope is not going to set him back for very long. But obviously they’re taking all the necessary precautions.”
Nicks’s position coach, Kevin M. Gilbride, seemed as if he was getting antsy waiting for the receiver’s return.
"I think the frustration is across the board and it starts with Hakeem. He is very frustrated. He is very frustrated that he can’t practice,” said Gilbride. “He and I talk about it. He understands he needs to practice in order to be ready to play during the season, [and] to be ready to beat the defenders that he’s playing against. As coaches, there’s always frustration when there are guys who you want to help your team and they can’t practice. But it starts with Hakeem. He is frustrated that he can’t get out there.”
Gilbride then took a breath and said he “can’t remember, to be honest with you” the last time that Nicks was full-go in practice.
Nicks has been limited since the Giants’ day off last Wednesday and has not been on the field since the players returned to work the following day. But even with the mixed messages coming from both player and coaches, Nicks said it’s better to fully heal instead of rushing back and risking a setback.
“I don’t feel frustrated at all [because] it’s only the second week of camp practice. I think, coming off a season like last year, I’m trying to be smart and I think the training staff is as well,” Nicks said. “I don’t have a problem. ... Frustrated? Not at all.”
It also doesn’t help the mounting tension that Nicks skipped the voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) in the spring for reasons he still has yet to publicly disclose. He did attend the Giants’ mandatory minicamp in June. He hopes any rift that may be forming with him and the coaches will subside once he actually plays in a game — exhibition or regular season.
He also noted that other than the tightness with his groin, the main injuries to his foot and knee are a thing of the past and once his groin clears, he’ll be back to form.
“The knee is feeling great, the foot’s feeling great, [so] that’s definitely a positive,” Nicks said. “My goal was to come out the first [couple] days [and] just kind of explode, make sure I still have everything like I thought I would. ... Everything felt real good.”
He said the groin injury is just something that came up due to the pounding from training camp.
A free agent at the end of the upcoming season, Nicks bristled when asked if his sitting out workouts was a contract-related tactic, as a way to posture and perhaps make a silent protest over the fact management took care of fellow starting wideout Victor Cruz first.
“No. I’ve got to protect myself from myself with me being so competitive, so the training staff and coaching staff, they kind of worked with me on that,” Nicks said, who stayed true to form in declining to publicly discuss his contract situation through the media. “I see myself in another week definitely picking it up more. Last year taught me ... take it slow and do the things I need to do to make sure there are definitely aren’t going to be any setbacks. It’s a big season for us and we’re going to take it one day at a time.”
Big Blue notes ...
» One guy who’s apparently improving with each passing day is tight end Adrien Robinson. The second-year vet has caught the eye of Coughlin.
“I think he’s making steady progress,” Coughlin said. “He’s practiced well, made some plays and more importantly from an assignment standpoint he’s done well. We look forward to having him continue that way.”
» The Giants made a minor transaction over the weekend that included a former UMass star wideout not named Cruz. Three-year veteran Jeremy Horne, who was carted off the field in practice early last week, was waived injured. He was replaced by fellow Minuteman alum Julian Talley, who was in the Giants’ 2012 training camp before his release on Aug. 27, 2012.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for updates throughout training camp.