Chris Canty didn't look at his watch. He didn't check his calendar. He just knew.
"It's time," he said.
Time for him to get back on the field and help the Giants.
The big defensive tackle signed as a free agent last winter has been sidelined since Aug. 7 with a hamstring injury. In recent weeks, he's been able to return to individual drills, and Monday- a month after his last real involvement with a practice - Canty was able to participate fully in a workout.
"I'm ready to roll," he said. "I'm ready to hit somebody. It's been a while."
Canty is optimistic about being on the field for the Giants Sunday when they open their season against the Redskins. He said he had to work on making sure his timing and explosiveness are where they need to be, and of course, he's also monitoring his hamstring.
"I'll make sure everything is OK downstairs with the leg, and if that's the case, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to go on Sunday," he said.
Tom Coughlin was less certain about Canty's availability. "We'll see how it goes along," he said. But he is happy to see Canty making progress and nearly all of the pieces of the defensive front finally coming together.
The Giants also spent a good deal of the preseason without Rocky Bernard, another free- agent defensive tackle who battled a hamstring injury. But now, with Canty poised for a return and Bernard going at full speed, the group seems to be intact again.
Coughlin can't say that about the entire defense, though. Linebacker Antonio Pierce, who missed two weeks of the preseason with a foot injury, was not at practice Monday(there was no APB like the one for Osi Umenyiora when he disappeared a week ago; Coughlin said Pierce was excused for "personal reasons"). And another free agent, linebacker Michael Boley, has been sidelined all preseason after hip surgery and is suspended for the opening week for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.
Still, having Canty back is good news for the Giants - and for Canty, whose frustrations were felt by his defensive teammates.
"Absolutely. New team, big contract and a lot is expected of him, and he doesn't have the opportunity to get out there and showcase it," Justin Tuck said. "If you are not on the football field and your teammates are, if you have that competitive edge, you want to be out there . . . especially when the season is about to start and you don't know when you are going to get put back in."
Canty still has some ground to make up. He's learning a new position as a defensive tackle in the Giants' 4-3 scheme after playing defensive end in a 3-4 for four years in Dallas and four years before that at Virginia. "You think about missing 20-some-odd practices, of course you're going to be behind," he said.
But there's also a bright spot for him. He said he's never felt stronger this close to the opening of a season. "I've been in the weight room lifting and it's given me an opportunity to kind of have a second offseason training program so far as the workouts and exercises that I could do," he said. "That's been a positive from this episode."
The episode is almost over. Mondaymay have been Canty's first practice back, but it wasn't much of one. The team was on the field for a little more than an hour, basically just getting back to the flow of working after three days off the field. They're off again today, but Wednesdayis the first intense practice of Week 1 of the NFL season. And Canty will be out there.
"So far, so good," he said. "It's just going to be one of those things that we will have to see on Wednesday. Put on some pads, bang around a little bit more and see how it feels, and hopefully, it will respond positively."
And right on time.