Terrell Thomas took the first step of his last chance Tuesday.
Coming back from a third ACL surgery, the Giants cornerback downplayed the excitement over being activated from the physically unable to perform list while recognizing that another injury will almost certainly end his career.
"That's how I look at it, to be honest with you," Thomas said when asked if this constitutes his "last shot" at remaining on a roster. "In this league, it comes by and they're looking for the next guy and there's always competition, especially when you have a lot of injuries. They count you out . . . I'm pushing myself to say this is my last chance to prove a lot of people wrong and to get back on the field."
Thomas missed all of the 2011 season after he tore his ACL (for the second time in his career following an injury in college) in a preseason game against the Bears. He rehabbed vigorously and returned in time to open last year's training camp in Albany. Two days into that venture, though, he slipped while covering Domenik Hixon in a one-on-one drill, damaging the graft in his knee. It eventually required another reconstruction.
He'll try to learn from that experience and ease into practice this training camp.
He's already spent the last 10 days on PUP, although that was due to a hamstring strain he suffered in the conditioning test on July 26. His knee was ready for the start of this camp, he said.
Thomas was in pads with his team Tuesday and participated in individual drills. He did not appear to take any team snaps, and once he does he'll be eased into the rotation.
It's a program similar to the one Hixon used last year when he came back from a second straight ACL surgery. "That worked out well," Thomas said of Hixon's injury-free 2012 season.
As for his position, Thomas can play at either cornerback or safety. He said he's just focused on being a football player, but was working with the corners Tuesday.
Guard Chris Snee (hip) also was activated off of PUP yesterday, which was according to the timeline the Giants projected at the start of camp. His return was certainly less emotional than Thomas'.
"I was just told here you go, you are off the PUP," Snee said. "A little ceremony, maybe a little cake."
Snee was being sarcastic, even though the team was glad to have him back on the field. With Thomas, though, there seemed to be more of a recognized accomplishment to his return.
"I'm a huge fan of Terrell's," safety Antrel Rolle said. "Even when times got tough for him once, even when times got almost impossible for him twice, he's still hanging in there."
Having Thomas on the field was uplifting, but he still has to prove he can make the team and play at a competitive level after missing two full seasons.
"The major thing is to get him on the field, get him practicing, bring him along accordingly, and then let him indicate or show us," coach Tom Coughlin said. "I'm not speculating. He's here for a reason. He's been an outstanding football player -- we think he can be again. But of course we have to get him on the field."
Which is why yesterday was fun and exciting, but downplayed.
"This day isn't big; this is the first day," Thomas said. "It's a starting stone . . . A milestone is at the end of the season playing in the Super Bowl. Playing Week 1, Week 2, Week 8 is an accomplishment but I want to continue my career and play several more years after this."