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At midnight, Ramses Barden will turn back into a pumpkin

New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden signs

New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden signs autographs for fans after a workout at NFL football training camp in Albany, N.Y., Sunday, July 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) Credit: AP Photo Kathy Willens

That tick-tocking Ramses Barden is hearing in this training camp is coming from none other than Tom Coughlin.

“It’s time,” Coughlin said of the fourth-year receiver who was drafted in the third round as a project from a small school but has yet to develop into that potential. “It’s time. It was time last year. It’s time.”

Barden said this offseason that he knows the clock is running out on his opportunity with the Giants, but when asked about it yesterday he shrugged it off.

"I don't think about it like that,” he said. “We have a lot of talent in that room and we have a lot of competitiveness. Those are the things I am concerned with, finding a way to beat the person in front of me. I feel like the rest will take care of itself. I am excited to seize all the opportunities that I think can come my way but other than that, that's it. I just want to enjoy it. I want to enjoy the game and I want to compete at the same time. That's my goals for this year."

Barden is one of the guys who is fighting for the No. 3 receiver job. So far in camp he’s done well, but still appears to be behind Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon. He might even be behind Rueben Randle, the second-round pick from LSU who some have called an “NFL-ready” receiver.

Few have called Barden and his 15 career receptions an NFL-ready receiver (although his 6-6, 224-pound frame drips with potential). In fact he was benched and inactive for the final playoff stretch last season, including a sideline view of the Super Bowl. But he's always been a star at training camp from his rookie season when he seemed to outplay fellow rookie Hakeem Nicks and flashed early and often with leaping one-handed grabs. None of that has yet translated into the regular season, though. He's been injured -- an ankle problem took nearly a full year to go away, costing him the second half of 2010 and the first half of 2011 -- and now that he's in the final year of his contract, well, the clock is about to strike midnight and turn him back into a pumpkin. He's definitely on the roster bubble, being pushed from behind by newcomers like Dan DePalma and David Douglas (both of whom play more special teams than Barden does).

“The guy is going to make a mark in the league,” Coughlin said. “He’s smart; he’s been around long enough. He’s been in the heat of it. You know, he’s made plays. He just needs to make them more consistently. That’s all I hope, (that) this is his time.”

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