EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Aug. 22, 2011, Terrell Thomas was a starting cornerback for the New York Giants, entering his fourth NFL season, playing in the team's second preseason game against the Chicago Bears.
Little did he know, it would be his last game for more than two years.
Thomas tore the ACL in his right knee against the Bears that night, and tore it again in training camp last summer. On Aug. 22, 2013, Thomas sounded like a man with a very different perspective, as he prepares to return to the field Saturday against the Jets.
"I’m just excited to pack my bag," Thomas said Thursday after practice. "I haven’t done that in a long time, pick out what cleats I’m going to put in there, see my jersey back on those shoulder pads before the game. It’s a long time coming. A lot of people have been rooting for me; it’s a big day for me and my family."
Thomas has been the feel-good story of Giants training camp this year, but the story takes a big turn Saturday night at MetLife Stadium. Thomas sat out the Giants' first two preseason games after dealing with a hamstring injury early in camp. This will be the biggest test yet in his comeback attempt.
"I have to go out there and perform," Thomas said. "I haven’t made the team yet. This is the first time that I’ve been in the position to have to make the team and it’s exciting. It’s actually driven me and motivated me to keep pushing."
Prince Amukamara will start at one cornerback spot, and Aaron Ross will likely start at the other since Corey Webster missed practice time this week due to knee and groin injuries. Thomas will eventually be thrown in the mix, although coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday he's not sure exactly how much Thomas will play.
"We’ll give him certainly enough, but we won’t overdue it," the coach said.
Coughlin said, "I have liked what I've seen" from Thomas thus far in practice, and his teammates are excited to see Thomas back on the field.
"I’m very happy that Terrell’s back," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "I know how hard he worked to get back, and hopefully he can stay healthy, 'cause he’s definitely gonna be a huge boost to our defense this year."
Will that really be the case? Only time will tell. Thomas admitted Thursday he hasn't proved anything to himself yet. "I haven’t done anything yet," he said. "I haven’t made the team, I haven’t played in a game. I think this is just a building block along the journey."
He also admitted he's been dealing with some tendinitis in his knee, but it is getting better. "I can’t say I’m 100 [percent] and I can’t tell you I’m at 80," Thomas said. "Am I ready to go? Can I play full speed? Without a doubt."
The fans will be rooting hard for Thomas on Saturday, and some will probably think back to that Bears game two years ago. But Thomas said it won't be on his mind.
"Not at all," Thomas said. "This is football; you can get hurt any play. Unfortunately, you can. It’s a part of the game -- injury is a part of the game.
"You can’t worry about being injured -- that’s how you get injured," he added. "I’m going to go out there and play 100 percent, give it my all and do my best."