Ramses Barden isn't looking at these next few weeks as his big opportunity. Sure, Hakeem Nicks will be sidelined through at least the start of training camp and, yes, Barden will see a bump in his share of first-team reps because of that. But the fourth-year receiver who has always been a practice-field all-star knows that what he does in May and June -- and even July and August -- will have little bearing on his future with the team.
"I've done enough in practice over the years, so I can't imagine that's as much a concern as what happens on Sundays in the next couple of months," Barden said Wednesday following the team's third OTA. "I'm sure there'll be some great catches and some boneheaded plays, but my mark is going to be made on Sundays and not during the offseason."
That's always been the issue with Barden, who flashed brilliantly at his rookie training camp -- even eclipsing Nicks, a fellow first-year player, at times -- but has had just 15 catches in 17 career games. Things started to look like they were coming together for him a year and a half ago when he made three catches against the Cowboys, but in that same game, he broke his ankle and his season came to an end. The following year, the injury lingered. He began the 2011 season on PUP; he ended it as an inactive player watching Super Bowl XLVI from the bench.
"It's been a little bit of inconsistency," Tom Coughlin said of Barden's play. "Some days are very, very good and others are not as good. He knows that and he is working hard on that. Hopefully, it is going to all catch up with Ramses this spring and this fall."
Barden hopes so, too. He knows that this is his last chance to make an impression on the Giants -- or any NFL team -- before his rookie contract runs out. If he wants another deal, he has to start making plays. Teams may draft unpolished 6-6 physical specimens to try to develop them into players, but they won't re-sign them under those auspices.
"Every year is a big year, but contractwise and where I've been in my career dealing with injuries and some obstacles, I think it's definitely a big year," Barden said. "I'll play like I have nothing to lose. That's how I feel. Everything to gain. The things that I do will earn what happens from here on out."
Notes & quotes: DE Justin Tuck did not participate in Wednesday's OTA and was on the sideline with a heavy wrap on his left shoulder. Tuck had surgery on that shoulder earlier in the offseason . . . Among those not on the field were DE Osi Umenyiora, CB Corey Webster, T Will Beatty, TE Adrien Robinson and CB Corey Webster . . . Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell raved about undrafted rookie linebacker Jake Muasau, a tryout who was signed after rookie minicamp. "We think if we give him the opportunity to get reps at the position he's playing right now, we might find something," Fewell said.