Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuck to Beast: 'We don't play the excuse game'
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
Jim O'Connor/US Presswire
The New York Giants' depth at defensive line has been tested this season, but part of the team's culture is playing through pain.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
If the New York Giants were the sort of team that made excuses, it would be on about six or seven by now. But that's not the way Tom Coughlin runs his locker room -- and it's why all the adulation for the flavors of the month (Vikings, Saints) doesn't really affect my belief that the Giants are still the team to beat in the NFC.
When I made my annual pilgrimage to Albany, N.Y., for Giants training camp in August, Coughlin was in a foul mood -- even by his standards. He wasn't pleased that key players such as Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Aaron Ross were missing valuable practices. And in one classic Coughlin moment, he actually requested that reporters stop talking up the alleged depth his team along the defensive line. Only a day before, my own editors had strongly suggested a column on how the Giants might have the deepest front four rotation in the NFL.
Coughlin was afraid that his players were reading the NFC East blog and other lesser-known publications. He was right on the money because important players began dropping on what seemed like a daily basis. Chris Canty, a big-money free agent from the Cowboys, never really made it out of the gates with a hamstring tear and he's only played in one game this season. Jay Alford, a valuable member of the team's defensive tackle rotation, is out for the season.
The Giants haven't had both regular first-string cornerbacks on the field this season and nickel corner Kevin Dockery just returned from his own hamstring issue. Safety Kenny Phillips was poised to have a Pro Bowl-worthy season, in my opinion, but his campaign ended after two games. He'll have to undergo microfracture surgery on his knee.
Heading into a Week 5 game against the Raiders, the Giants will be without starting linebacker Michael Boley and quarterback Eli Manning is questionable with plantar fasciitis. But the funny thing about this is that no one, including the team's fan base, seems to be panicking.
The Giants are 4-0 and they actually appear to be gaining steam as they continue this crash course toward an intriguing Week 6 matchup with the Saints in New Orleans. In order to try to understand why this team seems almost to embrace adversity, I tracked down Pro Bowl defensive end and soon-to-be proud father Justin Tuck on Thursday afternoon.
"There's just a resiliency about this team that's hard to describe," Tuck said. "When someone else goes down with an injury, it's almost like we try to play our season for them."
Tuck could barely move his left shoulder after he was tripped by Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams late in the first half and it appeared that he would have to miss at least one game. Instead, he "harnessed up" his shoulder and played eight snaps in a 24-0 shutout of the Buccaneers in Week 3.
"I knew I couldn't go the whole game, but I thought my teammates could use a breather every now and then," Tuck said. "I would've felt bad if I couldn't give them that opportunity."
Coughlin feels horrible for his players when they're injured for extended periods, but you'll never hear him or anyone else in the locker room use that as an excuse. In fact, Coughlin's passed out T-shirts to his players in the past that say, "Talk is Cheap...Play the Game!" Tuck and some of his teammates might think some of Coughlin's methods are a little corny but that doesn't mean they don't believe in them.
"Coughlin's earned the right to do anything he wanted when we won that Super Bowl," Tuck said. "He could come up with something completely off-the-wall and we'd all be standing in line to do whatever it was. That's the way we run this place. We don't play the excuse game around here."
On Thursday, Tuck predicted that Manning would find a way to be on the field Sunday. He said he "just knows the guy" and really doesn't have much doubt that Manning will find a way to play through the pain in his foot.
"I keep telling him, 'Eli, you haven't ever been mobile anyway. Just get out there and play football.'" Tuck said. "And I think he'll find a way."
It's the Giants' way.
Adam Schefter reports on the injury status of Eli Manning and the chances of him playing on Sunday.