Hakeem Nicks is not playing at 100 percent, but he refuses to tell the Giants which part of his game is lagging behind.

The wide receiver admitted last week to not being himself on the field after undergoing offseason surgery on his foot. He said there are some routes that are more troublesome than others. Which ones? That's a secret, he said, because he doesn't want to be taken out on certain plays or have the Giants tweak their offense to meet his needs.

"I just let them call the offense and I play accordingly," Nicks said yesterday. "I'm always [saying]: 'Play within the system, don't tweak nothing due to this foot.' The mind overcomes all and I'm strong-minded. I feel like if I'm out there I have to be ready to do everything that I can do."

Nicks practiced yesterday and called it "a real good day for me."

"He wants to play," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "He doesn't want anything limited. He wants to get every throw in his direction, so he's never going to tell you candidly 'I can't do this' or 'I can't do that' . . . It's hard to bet against him, because whenever you need something he comes through for you."


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Practice makes perfect

Tom Coughlin was critical of two of the Giants' three practices leading up to the Cowboys loss. So far this week, he's seen improvement.

"I think we're getting better, I really do," he said.

So do the players.

"Just the tempo in practice, the energy in practice is I think double what it was last week," Justin Tuck said. "Guys seem to be a little more excited about playing football. I think last week, we were a little sluggish."

Giant steps

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell had this advice for any of his players who complain about holding that goes uncalled by replacement officials: "If somebody holds me, then I'm going to get him off of me. My take is, let's get his [butt] off of you." . . . Coughlin said Sean Locklear is the Giants' starting left tackle . . . Defensive end Adewale Ojomo (hamstring) was the only player on either the Giants or Bucs to miss practice yesterday.