Giants head coach Tom Coughlin may not have coined the “next man up” mantra, but judging by the way the team seems to deal with serious injuries, Big Blue has certainly perfected it.
It’s not that the Giants won’t miss Pro Bowl safety Stevie Brown, who is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), but it’s that the team has full confidence they’ll find a way to rally around his absence.
The secondary got some much-needed reinforcements at Monday’s practice as safety Antrel Rolle (ankle) and cornerback Corey Webster (groin/knee) returned to limited work.
It’s still up in the air whether either will play at New England in the preseason finale on Thursday, but just having the two back in uniform and getting in reps will certainly help a banged-up and maligned secondary.
Webster has missed considerable time with a nagging groin injury, while Rolle has been steadily working his way back into practice shape after spraining his ankle on Aug. 12. He was donning a walking boot a day after the injury but surprisingly shed the boot just a day later, saying “boots are for wimps.”
Rolle, who didn’t play in Saturday’s loss to the Jets, said he likely would’ve been back playing had these preseason games counted — especially with the absence of Brown, who was the secondary’s best playmaker.
The veteran safety said he’ll try to do the extra things needed to cover up for Brown’s absence, but admitted he’s still in shock that he won’t be lining across from him this season.
"It's time for me to step up more than I ever have before," Rolle said, adding the void Brown leaves means more to him than just Xs and Os. “This goes deeper than just football. ... It still hasn’t hit me all yet.”
One guy who may get the first crack at filling Brown’s shoes is first-year Giant Ryan Mundy. The former Steeler said he learned a lot from being the understudy to guys like Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, so he’s hoping to apply what he’s learned as the possible new starting safety for Big Blue.
“It’s always an unfortunate situation when you see a good player and also your friend go down with an unfortunate injury,” Mundy said. “This is a situation I’m familiar with, stepping in for guys when they go down and I’m excited about it. It’s a great opportunity and I look forward to making the most of it.”
Mundy won’t be the only one to shoulder the load of Brown’s absence, as Coughlin is hoping other players step up and contribute. The coach hopes youngsters like Tyler Sash, rookie Cooper Taylor, who has done next to nothing so far due to a nagging hamstring injury, and Jayron Hosley, who rolled his ankle in the Jets game but should be fit to practice this week, all earn their keep.
And if those guys aren’t up to the task, the Giants may have to experiment with using cornerback Terrell Thomas at safety. Coughlin said there haven’t been any formal talks yet about making that move, but added anything is possible for a unit that has a huge void to fill.
Thomas noted that no one on the coaching staff has come to him yet, but he’s willing to “do anything ... whatever it takes” to get on the field again, as he’s trying to overcome the third ACL injury of his football career.
“I think Ryan Mundy has done a great job stepping in for Antrel when he went down and he’s been a great guy since he’s come in,” Thomas said. “You know what, they [young defensive backs] all can play. It’s just who’s going to be the most consistent. I’m not worried about that [switch] right now. I just want to come in here and do my job every day. I think the main focus is getting me on the field, getting me healthy, getting me through [preseason] and going forward.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Taylor said he’s aware that he’s yet to show anything on game film that would give even the most ardent Giants fan hope that he can contribute. He added that while he’s been doing everything he can from a mental standpoint to make up for the lost practice time, he knows that won’t matter if he can’t translate it to the field.
“It’s easy to think you have it down in the meeting room, but when the bullets are flying out there for real, you definitely have to make sure you know it,” Taylor said. “The way the training camps are run it’s a little less time on the field and more time in the meeting rooms. So I was able to get a little bit more out of that, but definitely making sure I have it down in the meeting room pat, so when I do go out there, it will execute on the field.”
»Coughlin didn’t rule out using Thomas as a safety, but said the main thing is to just get the veteran back on the field and continue to push up the number of game reps.
“Our main concern right now is to get him to where he’s playing well and his confidence is up and that type of thing,” Coughlin said. “That has been first and foremost on our minds. Quite frankly, we haven’t thought a lot about another spot for him other than getting him out there. … He certainly is a talented guy and we’ll do the best we can to utilize all of the talent that we have. We do have one more preseason game and let’s play that and then we’ll make some decisions about what we’re going to do going forth.”
»Wideout Louis Murphy didn’t work again on Monday and was seen with a big wrap on his right knee. He was also seen getting his calf massaged for periods of time.
»Rookie defensive end Damontre Moore (shoulder) also sat out practice, as his limb was wrapped for the entire session.
»Dan Connor looks to have wrapped up the starting middle linebacker position, as he was running with the first-team — much as he was all of last week.
»Wideout Ramses Barden has also been a regular on the sidelines during practices. He missed another session as he donned a brace/sleeve on his right knee.
»Offensive tackle David Diehl (thumb), Hosley (ankle) and defensive tackle Kuhn were all riding the stationary bikes during practice.
»Wideout Victor Cruz (heel) shed the protective boot and crutches on Monday, as he’s still holding out hope that he can recover enough in time for the opener.
»Coughlin said he’s “strongly inclined” to play his starters some on Thursday — much the way he did in last year’s preseason finale.
»Fullback Henry Hynoski (knee) got some light work in with the first team in 7-on-7 drills and some team drills as well.
»The offensive line underwent more shuffling on Monday, as Kevin Boothe went from left guard to center, with James Brewer filling Boothe’s old spot. Jim Cordle, who started at center last week in practice and against the Jets, was demoted to second-team center.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.