EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas has been waiting for almost two years to get back on the field and play in an NFL game, any type of game.
It just won’t be Sunday night when the Giants (1-0) take on Indianapolis in a preseason game at Metlife Stadium, a contest in which the Colts have been challenged by their owner to show something after a dismal performance last weekend.
Thomas has a bigger comeback, He has missed the last two seasons with anterior cruciate ligament injuries. The 28-year-old started training camp on the physically unable to perform list and was activated less than two week ago.
However, he has looked surprisingly good in practice and appears to be close to playing, possibly next week against the Jets.
“I’m still just building blocks and just trying to knock ‘em down,” said Thomas, who was the Giants’ leading tackler in the two seasons before being hurt. “I’m taking big steps every day. Trying to get better, you know, with my technique getting my feet underneath me, keep building confidence.”
One clear indication that Thomas is getting closer has been watching him work against Victor Cruz in practice. He has held his own against one of the league’s top receivers.
“We love the competition,” Thomas said. “I made a couple plays on him and vice versa. We talked about it in the locker room, give each other, gassed each other up a little bit. But it’s fun. It’s fun to get me back out there.”
Cruz, who caught a 57-yard scoring pass in the 18-13 win over Pittsburgh last weekend, said Thomas is definitely making progress.
“You can still see him getting his feet under him and working on his lateral movement,” Cruz said. “But he looks good, he looks quick, he looks fluid out there. He jammed me up pretty good one day out there, I’m not going to lie. But I got him back. There’s a little back and forth, just a little competitive stuff to get each other better. But I definitely see him moving in the right direction.”
Heading into the second week of the preseason, Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Colts coach Chuck Pagano, whose team was embarrassed 44-20 by Buffalo, want to see their teams make progress. So does Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Irsay was miffed with his backups after Andrew Luck and company helped Indianapolis take a 10-0 lead, and he let the team know he wasn’t happy after spending $140 million on free agents, seeing star Andrew Luck sacked, and his defense and special teams embarrassed.
Linebacker Robert Mathis didn’t show up in the right frame of mind.
Pagano plans to play his starters about a half, which is fine with Luck.
“Yeah, I think you got to keep improving and get more comfortable with the plays,” Luck said. “We’ve got one game under the belt now, so to speak, and so yeah we should improve. We should play faster, a little more confidently and again, we’ll have to see what happens in the game.”
Coughlin plans to give quarterback Eli Manning about 20 plays and follow with backup David Carr and rookie Ryan Nassib. Veteran Curtis Painter, a former Colt, will not play until next week when Carr sits.
Hakeem Nicks, who missed the preseason opener, is expected back on the field and first-round draft pick and tackle Justin Pugh will play after missing the preseason opener with a concussion.
Defensive end Justin Tuck, who missed the Steelers game with a tight back, is expected to play. Safety Antrel Rolle sprained his right ankle in practice and will be replaced by Ryan Mundy.
“I’m still going to go out there and make all the same calls that I’ve made here normally,” fellow starting safety Stevie Brown said. “I’ll definitely try to be a little bit more vocal. But like I said, Mundy still has a great knowledge of the playbook, so he’s doing fine.”