Will Beatty conceded he still has some limitations in his right leg. They just won't be a concern on the football field.
"I'm not dunking like I used to,'' the left tackle said Thursday, two days before he will step on the field for his first Giants game action since snapping the leg in last year's regular-season finale. "We're not allowed to use the goalpost as a tool in end-zone dances to celebrate anyway.''
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Even though he has been practicing since the start of training camp, Beatty was held out of the first two preseason games as part of the schedule for his return. On Saturday he'll take the next step against the Colts. Tom Coughlin said Beatty will start at left tackle, replacing Charles Brown, who was there for the first two games.
"I'm still able to play, and when I get out there, I can move as I did before,'' Beatty said. "Now I might not be 100 percent in strength compared to the left leg, but that's because I was off of it for so long. We just have to build it up. But it's not a one-legged hop when I'm out there by any means. It is in great football shape, I want to say. I'm not having any concerns with it, thinking I'm not going to be able to do something. Because I can do it all.''
Usually, having an incumbent starter return to his position is cause for relief. In Beatty's case, though, overcoming the injury was just one aspect of his comeback. The second is overcoming the 2013 season, in which his production slipped dramatically. That phase, of re-earning the trust of the franchise as the main protector of Eli Manning, is only beginning.
Beatty signed a five-year deal with the Giants before the start of last season. Now, behind only Manning's, Beatty's potential bounce-back is the most critical to the success of the offense in 2014. And they go hand-in-hand.
"Yes, I have something to prove,'' he said, "but we all have something to prove. I don't think the weight on my shoulders is bigger than anyone else's.''
Beatty has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants, progressing in his rehabilitation at a brisk pace. In the spring it seemed he would certainly start training camp on PUP and be a question mark for the start of the regular season. That didn't happen, and now, barring a setback, he should make the second deadline easily.
Beatty said he is looking forward to "getting out there and showing the coaches my appreciation for still being in a Giants uniform, giving me the opportunity to come back from an injury, come back and play.''
They were pretty much locked into that based on the five-year contract, but Beatty knows there was a possibility that the team could have gone in a different direction at left tackle in the offseason.
That kind of thinking might have burdened him. Luckily, he had other things to think about. Such as his injury.
"It kept me focused on the future,'' he said of his rehab. "Knowing all I had to do to get back here, I didn't really have time to wallow in self-pity or sorrow.''
He won't have that time Saturday, either. But he knows what a good performance in the game will mean. It's not too late for the Giants to reconfigure their line and squeeze an ineffective Beatty to a lesser role.
"It's not going to be 'this is your first game back and we're giving you an excuse,' '' he said. "It's going to be 'you're out here playing and the best five will play. If you want to be out there playing, you better be one of the best five.' ''
And if he is Saturday?
"It gives me more hope for the future.''