Prince Amukamara sat at his locker and wracked his brain, thinking back to every game and sport he played growing up. All through youth leagues, high school, college. He was trying to recall when he might have been benched.
"I can't think of a time," he said after a long pause. Then, with some gallows humor, one came to mind. "Sunday's game?"
For what might have been the first time in his life, Amukamara had to be taken off the field for the betterment of the team. That's a humbling experience for someone used to being one of the premier athletes whenever he plays. But after a blown assignment that allowed a touchdown and a missed tackle for a third-down conversion in which he gave up outside containment, the Giants decided to keep their first-round pick on the sideline for the second half against the Redskins.
Amukamara said his stay on the sideline made him very angry. "I don't wear my emotions on my sleeve, so I didn't show it," he said. "My coach didn't tell me, 'Prince, we're sitting you, we're benching you because you're not playing well.' They just told me they were going with a different package. I thought they were putting Deon [Grant] in just so they could fit the run better. If I was benched, and that's what I felt like it was," the young cornerback repeated that he was very angry.
Amukamara is in the unfortunate position of being a rookie who not only missed out on all of the OTAs and minicamps because of the lockout but missed training camp and the first half of the season with a fractured foot. He's playing catch-up now.
"I think the kid is going to be a fine football player,'' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said, "but it's a fast game and there are a lot of things to learn in a little bit of time."
He's not the first cornerback to go through this. In 2007, Corey Webster was benched but rebounded to become a critical part of the Super Bowl run. In September, Aaron Ross was taken out of the game against the Rams. The next week he had two interceptions against the Eagles.
"I heard a lot of stuff from all the guys," Amukamara said. "All it is is encouragement and support. That's what sticks with me. It's always good to know that your team still has your back no matter what."
Fewell said he'll be back on the field against the Jets. Said Amukamara, "I definitely took this week of practice with a different mind-set. I just have to make sure that doesn't happen again. I'm always known for my perseverance, so that's what I'm looking forward to."