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Seubert, teammates take the road to recovery

The Giants entered the 2010 season healthy and with high expectations but exited with injuries to key players and looming questions for the 2011 campaign. <br />

The Giants entered the 2010 season healthy and with high expectations but exited with injuries to key players and looming questions for the 2011 campaign.

This past season will be remembered as an anomaly, as the 10-6 Giants are home for the playoffs, while an also-ran like the Seattle Seahawks [7-9] get to play on because they won the wretched NFC West.
To a man, the Giants don’t harbor ill feelings towards the Seahawks or the playoff system but realize a golden opportunity to recreate that 2007 magic was lost – mostly due to injuries to key players.

New York’s first bout with injury came in June when explosive return specialist Domenik Hixon blew out his anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] during a mini-camp practice session on the New Meadowlands turf. Hixon, who was the best Giants return man, was lost for the season. And with his absence, Big Blue’s field position battle was extremely hindered. New York tried several returners to take Hixon’s place, although none came close to his production. Darius Reynaud and Will Blackmon were specifically brought over to help in the return departments but both had pedestrian numbers, as Reynaud posted an 18.4 kick return average and 5.7 punt average, while Blackmon had numbers of 18.3 and 6.7.

Compare that to Hixon, who averaged 22.6 yards per kick return and 15.1 yards per punt, and it’s easy to see why the Giants desperately need him healthy entering next season.

Hixon said he’s itching to get back and help a unit that was 31st in the league in return averages.
“To be honest with you, I think I’m going to be better,” said Hixon, who spent the ’10 season rehabbing near his home in Columbus, Ohio. “The reason I say that is because of all the studying I did this year. I had a lot of time to myself, watching games and just taking notes about different things. And kind of on the outside looking in, you got a different perspective.”

Hixon won’t be the only key member hoping to return to form in ’11. Rich Seubert, the longest-tenured Giant, plans to return for an 11th season despite suffering a serious knee injury in the team’s season-ending victory in Washington. Seubert dislocated his right kneecap in the first quarter and underwent successful knee surgery on Tuesday.

During Monday’s exit meetings, Seubert was adamant that this setback won’t be career-ending.
“I’m not going to let an injury end my career,” Seubert said. “I love playing football. This is the best I’ve felt in a few years. So to make it to the end and then have this happen sucks. But we’ve got the best trainers, we've got the best doctors, and I’m not going to say ‘stop.’"

This isn’t the first major injury for Seubert, as he suffered three broken right leg bones during the 2003 season. The injury was so traumatic that he missed the 2004 season. Seubert was assured this injury is nowhere near as severe.

“They said I’m going to be on crutches for a couple weeks,” Seubert said. “[The doctors] told me that it’s not like what I’ve done before [when] I shattered my leg and I needed seven surgeries to put it back together…the kneecap slid out and gave me a little problem [but] they told me they’re 100 percent sure they’ll fix it.”

Seubert was arguably the best offensive lineman on the Giants this season and was deserving of a Pro Bowl bid. Usually the left guard, he filled in admirably for perennial Pro Bowler Shaun O’Hara and played the center position as well as anyone in the NFL. Seubert, who was actually the third center this season for New York – backup center Adam Koets tore his ACL in Week 10 – said the ending to his season was a downer considering how well he manned the middle.

“That’s the disappointing part. You play the whole year, you feel good, and then something like this [happens],” he said. “But this is football. I play in the NFL, this is a possibility every time you go out there on that field. Any profession, you have risks.”

O’Hara, who shockingly got the Pro Bowl nod at center despite missing several weeks due to injury, said he feels worse than anybody about Seubert’s plight.

“We all feel bad for Rich right now,” O’Hara said. “Our heart goes out to him. We’ll be there every step of the way, pulling him out of the ditch. If anybody knows how to come back from something, it’s Rich. I think we’ll all enjoy seeing him out on the field next year.”

Reese agreed, adding that Seubert was the team’s most valuable player.

“I really feel bad for Richie because really to me he is the MVP of the team,” said Reese. “He really kind of saved it [the O-Line] for us. Everybody was in it together but Richie really held that offensive line together for the most part.”

Another O-Line counterpart that needs mending is Shawn Andrews. The bulky yet agile tackle/guard had back maladies mostly all season and hopes to return to form in ’11.

Reese was non-committal about Andrews’s return but, unless Andrews can’t make a full recovery, it’d behoove the Giants if they part ways with such a talented player. Andrews spilt time at left guard to fill in for Seubert when he manned the center spot and left tackle when customary starter David Diehl slid over to left guard.

“Obviously he’s got some back issues and we’ll evaluate that,” said Reese. “We’ll have our medical staff take a look at that, see where he is, and we’ll move forward with that process as well… there are a lot of uncertainties and injuries that we have to sift through during the offseason but we’ll get to that.”

Whatever the Giants decide to do with its roster moves, time will tell. But co-owner John Mara said every move the Giants make for 2011, they’ll work doggedly to make sure they have enough depth to weather the injury malaise better than the 2010 campaign.

“Nobody is more disappointed about the way this season ended than we are,” said Mara, who added that he feels the franchise is in better standing following this season than 2009. “When I stood here a year ago, I was angry and extremely disappointed about the way we finished the season. I felt like we weren’t competing. There is no worse feeling in sports than when you feel like your team is not competing. I can’t say that’s the case this year…[but] we will do what we have to do to make the team better. We want to get back in the Super Bowl. That’s what this franchise is about and that’s what our goal is every year.”

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