The Giants figured they'd be without three key offensive contributors for the game against the Panthers. The fourth one came as a surprise.

After listing wide receiver Hakeem Nicks as questionable early in the day on their injury report, the Giants later downgraded the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week to out Wednesday. Nicks, who was looking forward to playing his first game in his hometown of Charlotte, did not even make the trip with the team for Thursday's game against the Panthers.

Nicks tried to run on his injured right foot before the team's flight Wednesday but was unable to do enough to play in the game. He apparently did not suffer any setbacks but was a casualty of the short week.

Nicks was excited about the prospect of playing in Charlotte but hinted that it might not be wise to push it this week with only four days between games.

"It's definitely something I'm looking forward to, but at the same time, I'll have to be smart in this situation," Nicks said on Tuesday. "It's still early in the season, but as of right now, everything is looking good and I'm looking forward to playing."

Tom Coughlin was concerned about just such a situation, where players would not be able to recover in time for the Panthers game. "You're hoping that some of your veterans can come around fast enough to get back into a full swing that they would normally have," Coughlin said.

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Like Nicks, who admitted to not being himself in the opener but was a dominant player in Week 2. Nicks caught 10 passes for 199 yards against the Bucs, a gutsy performance that made him the first Giants receiver to be named NFC Offensive Player of the Week since Plaxico Burress in 2005. He limped off the field a few times after having his foot stepped on. It was the same foot that required surgery to repair a fractured bone during the offseason.

The loss of Nicks -- along with running back Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), tackle David Diehl (knee) and wideout Domenik Hixon (concussion), all of whom were also ruled out as expected -- leaves the Giants' offense without some of its most potent weapons. It also leaves the team with only four wide receivers: Victor Cruz, Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan and rookie Rueben Randle. Besides Cruz, only Barden has an NFL reception (16). He'll likely replace Nicks in the starting lineup.

The Giants will also look to tight end Martellus Bennett to be even more of a player in the passing game. In Sunday's offensive explosion, Eli Manning targeted either Nicks, Cruz or Bennett on 42 of his 51 pass attempts. Bennett caught the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter after dropping a potential touchdown earlier in the game.

"He's a talented player, he's going to play well for us, and he made some good plays," Manning said of Bennett this week. "Drops happen sometimes, it's part of football."

So too are injuries.

Nicks was asked this week what his ideal script for the homecoming game would entail.

"It's contribute to the offense the best way possible," he said. "Do whatever I've got to do to get the job done."

His only responsibilities Thursday night will be to get healthy enough to play in Week 4.