One in, one out.
That's the way things happen in the NFL, where one player's opportunity becomes another's misery.
In this case, it happened to two running backs who only a few months ago were considered to be "co-starters" by the Giants. Andre Brown, who fractured his leg in the preseason, was activated off injured reserve Thursday, starting his season on the same day David Wilson's ended. Wilson was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a neck injury that had been healing, but not quickly enough.
Like Clark Kent and Superman, it seems that Brown and Wilson may never be seen in the same backfield.
"It [stinks]," said Brown, whose excitement over his activation was clearly diminished by the Wilson trade-off.
Last year it was Brown's season-ending injury that opened a door for Wilson, then a first-round rookie. Brown broke his leg on Nov. 25 and the Giants had to rely more on Wilson through the final month of the season. This year, after Brown refractured the leg in the preseason finale, Wilson became the focus of the running game. He injured his neck in the Oct. 6 game against the Eagles and was diagnosed with a herniated disc and stenosis of the spine.
An examination earlier this week showed the herniated disc was receding, but Wilson was not cleared for a return. The Giants said at the time they would re-examine Wilson in several weeks, but the need to activate Brown interfered with that timeline.
In another circle-of-life roster move, the Giants also activated second-year defensive tackle Markus Kuhn off of the physically unable to perform list. Kuhn had knee surgery last November and had been practicing with the team for the last three weeks. To make room for him on the 53-man roster, the Giants placed veteran defensive tackle Shaun Rogers on season-ending injured reserve along with Wilson. Rogers had been dealing with a knee injury for several weeks.
Wilson's future remains uncertain. The team will follow through with that re-examination in several weeks. While the herniated disc is expected to resolve itself through treatment and rest, the stenosis is a chronic condition that could be an issue for the rest of Wilson's career. Though many have continued playing with the condition, it can be a dangerous one for a running back.
"I don't know what to think," coach Tom Coughlin said of Wilson's long-term prognosis. "It's obvious that medically there's no green light, so we're still in a holding pattern, believing that he's going to get better."
Coughlin said he does not think Wilson will need surgery before the 2014 season.
Brown, meanwhile, is expected to play a large role in the offense and could be the primary running back Sunday.
"A healthy Andre Brown that's playing well will be a significant contribution to our offense," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "It looks like he's physically running pretty well."
Brown's absence might have been overlooked at the time because the Giants still had Wilson. But in retrospect, some have pointed to his inactivity as one of the reasons for the 2-6 start. Brown rushed for 385 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns in 2012.
"I'm just thankful it wasn't for the whole year," Coughlin said of Brown, the first Giants player to take advantage of the new injured reserve rule instituted last year that allows for one player per season to return to action. "It was a setback, but you know what? Here we are. Look forward."