Justin Tuck was in the Giants' locker room the other day marveling at just how resilient his team has been over the years when it comes to dealing with injuries.
"It's just 'next guy up,' and we always seem to have a guy ready to go," the defensive end said. "It's amazing, really. We've got a lot of guys in this locker room who can play."
That "next guy up" mantra will be tested again as the Giants deal with a mind-numbing assortment of injuries. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, out with a neck injury. Right tackle David Diehl, out with a knee problem. Wide receiver Domenik Hixon has a concussion.
And now for the biggest loss yet: Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, coming off a brilliant effort in a remarkable comeback win over the Buccaneers, won't play Thursday night against the Panthers because he aggravated a foot problem that required offseason surgery.
Nicks revisited the foot problem when he accidentally was stepped on, and told me he momentarily thought he'd reinjured the foot. "But it started feeling better in a few minutes, so I knew I was OK," he said.
Evidently, he wasn't OK enough to make the trip and the Giants are playing it safe by not exposing him to further pain. It is a huge blow. Nicks had 10 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' 41-34 win, earning him NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Now it's up to the other receivers to pick up the slack, a task made more difficult with the absence of Hixon, who would have been the starter in Nicks' place. That means Ramses Barden, rookie Rueben Randle and second-year receiver Jerrel Jernigan must step up.
But if we've learned one thing about Tom Coughlin's Giants, it's that his team never should be counted out, regardless of the injury list. Last year, there was a spate of preseason injuries, leaving the Giants' secondary paper thin heading into the regular season, and there were assorted bumps and bruises thereafter. But it wasn't enough to stop them from winning the Super Bowl.
The only injury-related test they haven't faced is the one they hope never happens. Were they to lose Eli Manning, it's safe to say their chances would be diminished considerably.
But the Giants have won with Nicks, Bradshaw and a starting offensive lineman out at the same time. They stunned the favored Patriots in Foxboro last November, a win that turned out to be critical to their confidence. Nicks, Bradshaw and center David Baas missed the game, but the Giants still won, 24-20.
In that game, the Giants had serviceable backups Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham and Kevin Boothe. This time, the "next man up" roster features running back Andre Brown, wide receiver Ramses Barden and recently acquired tackle Sean Locklear, who has turned out to be an important, if unheralded acquisition this season. He would have started at both left and right tackle for the Giants within a span of just 15 days.
Credit Coughlin with providing coaching and mental resolve to get through these tough times, and credit general manager Jerry Reese with providing the players for his coach to mold into functional performers when called upon.
The injury list is long once more, but so is the list of accomplishments the Giants have produced in spite of them. Another herculean task awaits them against Cam Newton's Panthers, and the Giants will attempt to overcome the odds once more.