Jon Beason said Wednesday's practice was designed to gauge the status of his sprained knee and see where he is in his recovery. He took a full allotment of full-speed reps in full pads and felt good.

Then Thursday came. And the outlook wasn't as rosy.

"It's a little sore," the middle linebacker said. "The smartest thing to do was to take a day off and see how it feels tomorrow."

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The Giants won't actually practice Friday, though. They'll have a recovery day, part of their new schedule. They will have a more intense walk-through Saturday, and then it's off to Dallas. The question is whether Beason will make that trip and play in the opener.

"That's the plan," he said. "Trust me, I don't want to miss Dallas. For me personally, it means everything."

It was in Dallas last year that Beason's season ended. In Week 7 he reinjured his foot and was shut down for the season. He called that game "the straw that broke the camel's back." Now to be able to return there and play would be big, not only for him, but for the Giants.

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After they released backup Jameel McClain last weekend, the team doesn't have a lot of strong options behind Beason. Uani' Unga stepped in with the starters in Thursday's practice, but he's never played in an NFL game. Recently signed Jasper Brinkley has experience in the league, but he's been with the team only two days. Both said Thursday that they would be ready to play if needed.

"I'm pretty confident right now of where I'm at," Unga said. "This is professional football, and when they bring in guys, you should be able to pick up quickly and move on without taking any hits."

There are other options. J.T. Thomas has played in the middle and Devon Kennard has dabbled in it in his brief career with the Giants. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo also mentioned Mark Herzlich as an option, although he's played better on the outside than in the middle in recent seasons.

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Spagnuolo's best strategy seems to be the simplest: "We'll keep our fingers crossed on Jon and see what happens."

That's what Beason is doing.

"There was no point in pounding on it again," he said of Thursday's respite. "I was able to practice, which was a good thing."

Able to play would be even better.