INDIANAPOLIS - Quintin Demps summed up his goal in a few simple words.

"I gotta protect 'The Duke,' " he said.

He was referring, of course, to 'The Duke'-model football used in the NFL (and named for former Giants owner Wellington Mara). Demps fumbled a kickoff return in the first quarter that led to a Colts field goal and a 10-0 lead in Saturday night's 27-26 Giants win.

"I covered the ball up, I felt the traffic, I just didn't squeeze it as hard as I should have," he said of having the ball pried from his hands by Mike Adams. "But I covered it up with two. They just did a good job of ripping it out."

Demps took that return out from about 8 yards deep in the end zone. He denied the idea that he did so just because it is the preseason, saying that he probably would have given it a shot in the regular season, too. It was his best kickoff return of the season, reaching the 33 before the fumble.

"It's very disappointing," he said. "I'm trying to be a top guy on special teams in this league and I take pride in not fumbling. Before a touchdown, for me, the most important thing on a kickoff return is to make sure that the offense has the possession next. That's my goal every time. And then it's touchdown."

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Demps was glad the coaches sent him back out for the next kickoff return.

"I'm a veteran," he said. "I might have fumbled like twice in my whole career on kickoff. I think the coaches trust me in that aspect. It's one of those things, get it out of my system now and make sure it don't ever happen again."