Prince Amukamara earned his yellow badge of courage on Thursday night.
It came flying at him just before the third quarter came to a close against the Panthers, when the second-year cornerback was running toward the ball and wide receiver Louis Murphy gave him a shove. Amukamara did what he felt he had to do at the moment. He shoved back.
It was the kind of play that happens after nearly every snap in an NFL game, two players going their separate ways but not before a harmless push. This one, however, caught the eye of one of the officials and drew a penalty flag. It cost the Giants 15 yards. But, Amukamara and his teammates were quick to point out, it may have been worth it.
"I was joking, but I kind of am glad that I got that because, I mean, the video from the cold tub incident doesn't seem like I have that heart of a lion, that fight in me," Amukamara said. "So hopefully guys will notice and step back."
Amukamara later conceded that his remarks weren't meant to be entirely humorous. "It's half-serious, half-joking," he said.
And while he may not have exactly pummeled Murphy into submission or gotten into the kind of hand-to-hand combat that Corey Webster and Steve Smith engaged in -- without a penalty flag -- the Giants were happy to see the spark. That it was coupled with a solid on-field performance in his first game of the season after suffering a high ankle sprain in the preseason made it even better.
"I think that was definitely one of Prince's better games," Antrel Rolle said. "I think he played with a lot of swagger. He played with a chip on his shoulder. And more importantly he was aggressive when the ball was in the air."
"I'm glad to see him get that little fire in him," linebacker Michael Boley said. "A year ago he might have just walked off."
Rolle went on to describe Amukamara's game as having "a little more dog" than usual.
"You know? A dog mentality?" Rolle explained. "Dogs are ferocious. We go out there and we attack."
Amukamara is aware of the way he is perceived, as a docile poodle more than a Rottweiler, especially after that video surfaced of him being dunked into the cold tub by teammate Jason Pierre-Paul. He was seemingly playing possum on the big defensive end's shoulder while teammates exhorted him to fight back. He did no such thing, went headfirst into the tub, and emerged with a legacy no football player ever wants affixed to them:
What confused Amukamara is that he'd never been considered that way before.
"I think [Rolle] just said that [dog comment] because I made a couple of tackles and I was in the right spots and made a couple of plays," Amukamara said. "But I mean, that's always been my game, especially in college. I just haven't been on the field and haven't had a lot of reps to show that. I'm sure with the more reps I get the more that they'll see it."
As for the penalty, Amukamara said he felt that Murphy took advantage of the rules and if there is one thing Amukamara will not abide, it is a disregard for rules.
"I don't take cheating too lightly in any phases of games or in any competitions whether it be checkers of Connect Four, anything," he said. "That's just my immediate reaction."
It's one the Giants want to, and expect to, see more of.
As Rolle said when asked about Amukamara's penalty: "No more cold tub!"