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Center O'Hara returns, ready or not

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning celebrates with

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning celebrates with center Shaun O'Hara after throwing a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter. (Nov. 22, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

Injuries have forced the Giants to play musical chairs on the offensive line this season, with the biggest move being the one left guard Rich Seubert made by sliding to center in place of Pro Bowler Shaun O'Hara the past six games. But it became clear after Friday's practice that O'Hara is ready to return from his foot injury and face the Eagles on Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium, so Seubert let his buddy hear it as he prepared to greet the media.

"He's at his locker!" Seubert yelled with mock excitement. "Shaun O'Hara's back!"

O'Hara, who is listed as questionable, had to smile and take it, but it's good to be part of the conversation late in a season in which he has missed a total of nine games. "I feel relevant again, which is nice, and I'm looking forward to being with my teammates and contributing," O'Hara said. With a nod toward his obstreperous linemate, he added, "Hopefully, I can play half as good as Rich."

Funny O'Hara should mention that. The Giants have topped the 200-yard rushing mark the past two games, and the offense seems to have made an adjustment to open up huge cutback lanes for running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Some fans might wonder if this is a good time to mess with that chemistry in a game matching two 9-4 teams fighting for the NFC East lead.

"I can't really feel that way," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Like I've always said, the more quality players we have, the better off we are."

Not only is O'Hara a Pro Bowl talent, but he's always been a leader on the field in terms of recognizing what the defense is doing. He expects to have some rust, but he believes experience with his linemates will trump that.

"We've spent a lot of time together, so we have that going for us," O'Hara said. "I'll be looking forward to getting that first lick out of the way. Hopefully, it's on an Eagles player and not Richie."

O'Hara's return doesn't mean he's pain-free after a six-week battle with Lisfranc syndrome, affecting the bottom of his right foot. It means the pain now is manageable; just a week ago, it wasn't, and he was inactive for the Minnesota game.

"I don't think I'd say I'm healed," O'Hara said. "It's to the point now where I don't know how much better it's going to get. We've just got to go, or the season will be over. It's now or never."

Notes & quotes: Also questionable for the Giants are LB Michael Boley (shoulder), OT Shawn Andrews (back) and WR Devin Thomas (hamstring). Eagles starting MLB Stewart Bradley (elbow) is out, and WR DeSean Jackson (foot), OT Winston Justice (knee) and CB Asante Samuel (knee) are questionable.

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