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Terrell Thomas' first test is a doozy: Victor Cruz

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, left, looks to

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, left, looks to evade cornerback Terrell Thomas during team training camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. (Aug. 6, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas may be getting eased back in as far as his snap count goes, but when it comes to the competition he’s facing, he’s cannonballing into the pool.

In his first few days taking team reps, he has found himself with the first nickel defense, and that has meant covering Victor Cruz. A few times he’s been able to cover Cruz. Yesterday, there was a play in which Cruz got behind him but dropped a pass. But Thomas said it’s a good barometer for him.

“They wanted to see what I can do,” Thomas said of drawing the challenging coverage. “I mean, Victor’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player, a great Giant, and great competition for me to go against and get work and get better. We love the competition. I made a couple plays on him and vice versa. We talked about it in the locker room, gassed each other up a little bit. But it’s fun.”

Thomas has been an outside corner for most of his career. Now he’s not only coming back from a third ACL surgery, but also adjusting to playing in the slot.

“The slot’s a lot harder,” he said. “Playing man-to-man and just overall. Because in our offense, Victor has the option to do whatever he wants. He can run in or out, and I have to be able to anticipate that and cover him and play my leverage. It’s definitely a lot harder in that respect. On the outside, you’re more on an island, but it’s more of a controlled island. I think that’s why they put me on the inside, want to see what I can do. And at the same time, you’re a little more protected with having outside leverage, inside leverage, zone principles, run protection, stuff like that.”

Thomas said he’s not sure if he will play on Sunday against the Colts. He hasn’t played in an actual game since he tore his ACL against the Bears in Week 3 of the 2011 preseason. That’s almost two full years ago. His last regular-season game was in December 2010.

And while he said he felt he was actually ahead of schedule when he reinjured the knee last year as compared to this preseason, he is excited to get back out there and senses that the excitement is contagious.

“I think a lot of guys on my team are pulling for me,” he said. “It’s exciting for them to see me out there. They’ve seen me work hard through all the offseason. Kind of wait around, wait around, what is this guy gonna do, what can he do? And to get out there and start making plays, just being able to play football again, I think is exciting for the whole football team.”

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