Domenik Hixon watched the Giants return game struggle from afar this season.
He spent the year rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right leg in Columbus, Ohio, as the team struggled all season to find a replacement for him at kick and punt returner.
Hixon said on Monday that it was difficult "to see your family out there struggling with different things, knowing that you can help but you can’t be out there.”
The Giants tried to replace Hixon in the preseason by trading for Darius Reynaud, but the returner who came over in the deal for QB Sage Rosenfels never provided a spark. Will Blackmon had some success returning punts, but he was lost late in the season with a knee injury. Aaron Ross replaced Blackmon in the final two weeks, but didn’t make much of an impact.
D.J. Ware resuscitated the Giants moribund kick return game in the second half of the season, but the end results for the Giants were pretty dismal.
They finished 31st in punt return average and 31st in kick return average.
The Hixon injury may have been as significant as any the Giants suffered this season, especially considering the depth a healthy Hixon could have provided at receiver.
Hixon had some good news for Giants fans on Monday when he showed up at the practice facility for the time in month. He says that not only will he be back at 100% next season, but he will be more effective than he was before he went down while returning a punt at the New Meadowlands in a June practice.
“To be honest with you, I think I’ll be better,” said Hixon, who spent plenty of time studying game tape during the season. “On the outside looking in, you get a different perspective.”
Hixon, who will be a free-agent at the end of the NFL calendar year, spent the season rehabbing his injury and working out twice a day in Columbus. He is running at full speed and cutting on his knee. The lone hurdle left, according to Hixon, is to gain his endurance back.
Hixon, 26, didn't seem overly concerned that he didn't have a contract going into the offseason with the threat of a lcockout looming.
“I’m just kind of letting everything work itself out but I think we’ll be here, working out in March,” he said.
Hixon also spoke recently with former Giant Amani Toomer, who returned to the playing field after suffering a season-ending ACL injury in 2006.
“He came back and had a very successful career, so I plan to do the same thing,” he said.