The one word that best described Ahmad Bradshaw during his tenure with the Giants was "tough." He was a pounding, physical runner who performed while dealing with excruciating injuries. He literally had cracks in the bones in his feet to go with a litany of other issues, including a neck injury, that often kept him off the practice field.
Bradshaw may have been the only player Tom Coughlin has ever coached who gained his respect despite rarely practicing because of all those injuries.
For the most part, Bradshaw was able to ignore those physical pains.
The emotional ones that came when the Giants released him after the 2012 season? Those were hard to push through.
"It didn't take me long to get over it, it just hurt me because I felt that was my family, that I was a big part of that team and I still felt like I had a lot of football left," Bradshaw said in a conference call Wednesday.
Now an integral member of the Colts, Bradshaw said he is looking forward to a return home to see that family on Monday night when his new team faces his old one. He is one of two former Giants stars who will be playing for the opponent at MetLife Stadium in the game. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is also making his regular-season debut against the Giants. He signed with the Colts as a free agent this past offseason.
Both players will have a chance to prove to the Giants that they parted ways too soon, that they are still capable of being playmakers.
Bradshaw has continued to exhibit the trademark toughness that he displayed with the Giants. Last October he underwent surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck, the same surgery Peyton Manning had. He came back with the Colts for a second season and is having a renaissance year that includes a team-high 371 rushing yards and 31 receptions, six of them for receiving touchdowns.
"Once my strength came back [after the neck surgery], that is when I realized I wanted to play football again and wanted to stick with it," Bradshaw said. "It's neck surgery, it was spinal, I just wanted to take it seriously and I just had to sit back and realize what I wanted. I just started getting all of my feeling back in my arms, just after that I knew I wanted to play football again. I knew I wanted to be out there on the field and I wanted to be at my best."
Nicks may not be putting up numbers like Bradshaw (although he has caught two touchdown passes this season after being blanked all of 2013 and most of 2012), but Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he is an important part of a wide-ranging offense. Pagano also spoke about Bradshaw's toughness and his leadership on a relatively young team.
Not that the Giants need to be reminded of any of that.
"They were tremendous football players," Coughlin said. "When I watch the tape and I see the way that they progressed and the way they're playing this year, there's no doubt that it sends us back a couple of years to when they were both here . . . Both of those guys meant a great deal to our team."
And now, they mean a great deal to the other team.