Hakeem Nicks: 'I have to protect myself from myself'

Hakeem Nicks of the New York Giants hauls Hakeem Nicks of the New York Giants hauls in a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium. (Dec. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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So it turns out it's not even an actual injury that's keeping Hakeem Nicks on the sideline. At least not the way he sees it.

The wide receiver said on Friday that the ailment that is keeping him idle -- tightness in his groin -- isn't even bad enough to rate as an actual injury. In fact, he said, it's something he could play with if the Giants had a game coming up in the next few days, or even if it had sprung up last year.

But that was the problem last year. Nicks did have little nagging issues -- not to mention one big knee injury -- that he tried to play through, and they wound up haunting him for nearly all of a disappointing 2012 campaign. Nicks learned that lesson. Now he's using his new knowledge in the early stages of this training camp.

"I have to protect myself from myself as well because of me being so competitive," Nicks said. "I think last year, I just kept pushing my body through. So I'm trying to be a little more wiser. Knowing the game right now, knowing the business side of things, you kind of want to be smart."

Ah, the business side. Nicks is in the last year of his contract and coming off a season (because of injury) in which he compiled subpar numbers. Another year like that -- only 53 catches and three touchdowns -- could cost him millions of dollars this offseason. It does not appear to be the reason Nicks is staying on the sideline at this point, but it's certainly not far from his mind.

Add to that the stories of Jeremy Maclin and Dennis Pitta, each of whom tore an ACL and had his 2013 season end in training camp. Both will be free agents after this season.

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"I'm sorry that had to happen to them, especially at a critical moment in their career," Nicks said.

Nicks is at a critical moment in his own career. But he's also the Giants' top offensive weapon. The team needs to get him on the field to get in sync with Eli Manning and the other receivers.

"I'll be out there as soon as they let me," he said. "I think in another day or two."

Tom Coughlin put a more specific date on the return. He said the doctors believe Nicks will be back on the field Tuesday, after the team's next day off.

"I think it will be a matter of making sure that I'm in shape, of which I have no doubt, and getting back into the flow of things," Nicks said. "Me and Eli are always on the same page. We talk all the time, whether it be in meetings or just out on the field. Just watching the practice as well, I can see what he's looking at, his progression and stuff like that, so that helps me when I do get back out there on the field."

Of course, there are those who see Nicks on the sideline and wonder if he'll ever be healthy -- if he's just injury-prone.

So much was made of Nicks' arrival at camp at 100 percent that now that he's gone down a few percentage points, it's creating alarm. And not just among fans but from Coughlin.

But Nicks seemed as relaxed as ever and said he's not frustrated at all.

"That's just some people on the outside looking in," he said of the hysteria his groin has unleashed. "They really don't understand. Hopefully they understand now that coming off a season like last year, I just want to be cautious about it, making sure I'm able to perform when it's really time and when it really counts."

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