The piece that could be missing from the Giants' jigsaw puzzle this week is running back Ahmad Bradshaw. His chronic right foot injury was encased in a heavy black brace during practice Friday and, when reporters were allowed to witness the festivities, Bradshaw stayed on the sideline, helmet in hand.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin later said Bradshaw did have limited participation in the workout, "did OK" and remains questionable for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys. Bradshaw repeatedly walked away -- slowly and a bit gimpily -- when approached by reporters after the workout, so the team's picture remains incomplete. Bradshaw did tell reporters he'll play Sunday.
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Bradshaw is the team's leading rusher with 492 yards after playing six of the team's seven games. His touchdown against Washington last week was the 30th regular-season TD of his career, placing him ninth in Giants history. He is tied for sixth for career 100-yard games (10) as a Giant and is seventh in total yards (3,709).
Bradshaw missed practice Wednesday and Thursday but said Thursday that he felt good and didn't want any setbacks that would prevent him from being 100 percent for the Cowboys.
His understudy, third-year man Andre Brown, brings dramatically less accomplishment to the table. Of course, injuries and fill-ins are a common occurrence in the "day-to-day" National Football League, in which a player's career averages a mere 3.3 years, according to a Players Association study. And of all position players, running backs are gone the quickest, in only 2.57 years.
An analysis by the league last year concluded that the 206 drafted rookies who began careers on NFL 53-man rosters would last an average of 6.86 years. But even with that more optimistic forecast, Bradshaw, in his sixth pro season, already is pushing the odds. Not that players think that way.
"Nah," said center David Baas, who is dealing with a bum ankle and is listed as probable for Sunday. "It's one of those things where you just play as long as you can, and at some point, it's going to end."
It is not possible, the eighth-year pro said, to enumerate all his physical ills over time, which he dismissed as "just part of football. You have to deal with it the best you can, manage your body and those injuries and still be able to play."
Defensive back Corey Webster, who recently played with a broken hand, said it sometimes is possible to pretend he really isn't hurt when he is. "Once the game starts, it doesn't hurt," he said. "But after you see zero, zero on the clock . . . "
He shook his head.
"Oh, man," Baas said. "There are ways to psych yourself out; that's the mental part. There are some things you've just got to overcome and, other things, you have to resort to the other options, things trainers need to do."
In the meantime, Baas said, "I feel great. Come on, we're going to play the Dallas Cowboys."
The other Giants on the injured list are wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (knee/foot), probable; defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (quadriceps) and safety Kenny Phillips (knee), doubtful; linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee), out.