Mario Manningham returns to site of biggest NFL moment on shaky ground

Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham trains during the Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham trains during the second day of minicamp in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 18, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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With time running out and the Giants trailing the Patriots by two points in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Eli Manning lined up in the shotgun from his own 12-yard line and took the snap. Under heavy pressure, Manning heaved a pass down the left side for Mario Manningham.

A big play here, and the Giants would be in good position to earn a second straight comeback win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. But it wouldn't be easy. Manningham faced double coverage, and only a perfect throw and catch would result in a completion.

Somehow, both Giants made it work. Manning's pass went to the exact spot it had to go, and Manningham made a fingertip catch and managed to keep both feet inbounds for a 38-yard catch. It was nearly as dramatic a play as Manning's famous heave to David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII, when he pinned the ball to the side of his helmet on the winning drive.

Manningham returns to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since that memorable play, albeit under far different circumstances. No longer a key to the Giants' passing game, Manningham is simply hoping to make the team as the Giants prepare to face the Colts in their third preseason game on Saturday night.

While there may be some reminiscing for Manningham when he takes the field, the veteran receiver will be thinking more about what lies ahead. His place on the roster is hardly secure, and the emergence of young receivers Corey Washington and Marcus Harris may result in Manningham's eventual release.

"It's a new season. It's been a new season for two or three seasons now [since the catch]," Manningham said Wednesday. "I remember it, but I don't think about it. I'm just trying to make some more plays."

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Manningham has been used only sparingly, making one catch against the Bills and none against the Steelers. Manningham said he's almost fully recovered from knee problems that required two surgical procedures over the last three years. But he still doesn't seem to have that same burst. The fact that he hasn't had much time with the first-team offense suggests his place on the roster is iffy.

"Cuts are coming up and stuff, so I'm just going out and taking care of what I need to take care of," he said. "I'm just going out and controlling what I can control. I'm not really worrying about [cutdown day]. I'll leave it up to the staff to make those [roster] adjustments."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin's long pause after he was asked a question about Manningham's progress spoke volumes about how tenuous his situation looks.

"That's not an easy one," Coughlin said. "Some days it is better than others. I think he is growing in some confidence, but we have been at this for a while and would certainly like to see him at his very best over a period of time so we can assess what we could expect. He is working at it, he's working hard, but certainly I think there can be more."

Manningham hopes there's still more to look forward to.

"I'm trying to get some more plays," he said. "I'm really not thinking about that [Super Bowl play] anymore. I'm just trying to make more memories."

He'll need to make a few more in his return to Indianapolis, scene of his greatest NFL moment. But unless things change in a hurry, this might be his last trip there in a Giants uniform.

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