In the vernacular of NFL players, the word "smart" often means "sidelined." So when Hakeem Nicks said Thursday that his hamstring injury is "something you have to be smart about," it was basically code for declaring himself out against the Patriots on Sunday.

"We have a long season ahead of us," he said. "If I have to sit out one week and come back the next, I would rather do that than being out for a while . . . I don't think it's anything crazy like it will be two, three or four weeks. It's a matter of me not wanting it to be there, so I have to be cautious about it and take care of it."

Nicks didn't officially say he won't play, although he did not finish the game against the Dolphins last Sunday and hasn't practiced this week. "I'm hoping to wake up and the pain will be gone," he said. But it is becoming clear that the Giants likely will play the Patriots without either their top receiver or top running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who is dealing with a foot injury.

Against a New England team that scored at least 30 points in its first five games this season, it might be hard for the Giants to keep that kind of pace without their big contributors. That's especially true in the passing game, which has carried the Giants to a 5-2 record.

"You don't ever look at it as shorthanded," left tackle Will Beatty said. "You look at it as these are the guys we've got going into the game."

The Giants will have Mario Manningham and burgeoning star Victor Cruz. And offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Ramses Barden (still officially on PUP but expected to be activated) and rookie Jerrel Jernigan will be counted on.

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"We've all been hanging on for Ramses to come back," Gilbride said. "He and JJ, now are their chances, they're going to be here."

Playing without Nicks and Bradshaw also will put pressure on the Giants' defense.

"For us personally, we want to lock down any offense we play anyway," defensive end and captain Justin Tuck said. "Knowing that [the injuries] may take a few points off the board for us, it does put a little more pressure on us as a defense to come out and play better."

Ultimately, though, it will be up to the players replacing Nicks and Bradshaw -- who, even if they do wake up feeling better, certainly would have their abilities limited Sunday -- to pick up the slack.

"I was in that position myself where I had to go in and I had to step up," Beatty said of his experience last year. "They weren't looking at me as 'oh, you're in here and you can let him beat you and it's OK because you weren't the starter at the beginning of the season.' It's not that mentality. It's 'now we're expecting you to do just as good or better. Now it's your turn.' "