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Landon Collins wants to play through his ankle injury Sunday

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott slides under Giants safety

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott slides under Giants safety Landon Collins during the second quarter of a game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: AP / Adam Hunger

Landon Collins had never heard the expression before, so when he learned that interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Giants wanted to “protect him from himself” with regard to his ankle injury, he had to ask about it.

Turned out Collins took it as a compliment, the way it should have been taken.

But it does not resolve the issue of whether Collins will play on Sunday against the Eagles.

The Pro Bowl safety did not practice on Wednesday after spraining the same left ankle that he sprained earlier this season, but insists that he’d like to be on the field for the upcoming game.

“If I feel like I can play, if I can make myself play, I know I can make a difference on the field, and I’m going to be out there,” Collins said. “I would feel like I’m letting my boys down if I’m not on the field with them and that hurts me more than anything.”

It’s that mentality that pushed Collins through a high ankle sprain suffered in the Week 5 game against the Chargers. That was the game that basically wiped out the Giants’ wide receiver room, and it should have done the same for Collins.

“I should have never played the next three games,” he said of that injury.

But he did. He was back on the field in a limited role the next game in Denver and every game since.

Back then, though, the Giants still had a chance to make an epic comeback. Now their season is over. So why bother pushing through such an injury for a 2-11 team that is going nowhere?

“It really just comes from myself because I don’t want to be one of those players where I knew I could have been out there so when I look at my guys I’m letting them down,” he said. “I don’t like that for myself.”

There’s also an Xs and Os impact.

“People recognize when I’m on the field,” he said. “Even though I’m injured, at the same time I can still do something and make a difference and be a playmaker. Just my presence helps our defense as a whole and it betters each one of us knowing that we have all of our guys out on the field.”

The injuries have taken a toll on Collins’ season. His 97 tackles are the most by any safety in the NFL this season, but his other splash numbers are off. He has two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and zero sacks. He said he watches film of himself this season and thinks: “That isn’t me.”

“It’s like I could have done this, I could have done that,” Collins said. “But at the same time, I’m like, I’m glad I was on the field because I know it would be different if I was fully off it.”

Whether or not he is on the field Sunday will be decided as this week progresses. If he can practice, Spagnuolo will likely put him out there. The issue is a sprain, so beyond aggravating it there seems little chance of suffering a major surgery-requiring injury by being on the field with it.

“I don’t know if he’ll let us,” Spagnuolo said of sitting Collins. “He would have to convince [us to play]. I don’t want him to go out there and get hurt any worse. We’ll do the right thing.”

In Collins’ thinking, there is only one right thing. And he’s already made up his mind.

“It’s sore,” he said of his condition on Wednesday, “but other than that, I’m going to be able to play on Sunday so that’s all that’s key to me.”

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