Injuries forcing lowly Giants to make many changes
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) In his 19 seasons as an NFL head coach, Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants hasn't had one like this.
It's not the losses that make this season different. It's the injuries.
With a month left in the regular season, the Giants (3-9) have placed 19 players from their active roster on injured reserve and another one from their practice squad on the list.
Five players, including offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and defensive ends Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers, were placed on injured reserve Tuesday, the single largest number of players that a Coughlin-coached team has put on the list in one day during his career.
Even coaches are getting hurt. Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn injured a calf on Sunday in a loss to Jacksonville when he turned to let players know there was a punt team alert and pulled a muscle. He wore a boot at practice Wednesday as the Giants, the losers of seven straight, started preparations for Sunday's game against the Titans in Tennessee.
The 68-year-old Coughlin is at a loss to explain the injuries. The team worked on reducing soft-tissue injuries this season, but most of the players who have gone on injured reserve have had injuries that have resulted surgery or will require surgery.
''I feel badly for any player who has his heart and soul in what he's doing and is denied that because of an injury,'' Coughlin said. ''I feel badly for them and, then again, we speak to the opportunity that comes to the next in line. And we've had a lot of next in lines, I'll say that.''
The biggest changes this week will be on the offensive and defensive lines.
With Schwartz out for the season after playing in only two games and Justin Pugh returning from a quad injury, the offensive line will have the same look as it had for the first 10 games. Pugh will replace Schwartz at right tackle and the rest of the line will be Will Beatty at left tackle, Weston Richburg at left guard, J.D. Walton at Center and John Jerry at right guard.
Pugh, who missed the last two games, said the goal is to win a game, finish strong and compete. Those who don't may not be back next season.
''This is the time you have to go out there and make sure you are playing hard, but you don't want to think about it that way either,'' Pugh said. ''That is such a negative thought. You go out there and play hard and have fun with your teammates.''
For defensive end Damontre Moore, this will be the chance that many have wanted to see. The athletic second-year player probably will move into the starting lineup with Kiwanuka and Ayers sidelined. He already has shown he can rush the passer. He has to show he can also stop the run.
''This is a great opportunity for him,'' defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. ''You don't want the opportunity with that type of situation happening. But it's here and presenting itself and he has to take full advantage of it, and I think he will.''
Safety Antrel Rolle said this has been a weird year in terms of the number of injuries. However, he refused to use injuries as an excuse for the current record and missing the playoffs a third straight year.
''Obviously, this is a disappointing season for everyone,'' Rolle said. ''You have to go out there and keep fighting, that is all you have at this point.''
The Giants have been in position to win their last three games, but failed to make plays in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Eli Manning said the Giants have not stopped working hard despite their weekly failures. They have not won a game since Oct. 5 .
''We know we've got to play better and guys want to do that. There is no quit in this group,'' he said. ''We're going to work out tails off to get that win.''
NOTES: OT James Brewer (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) and RB Rashad Jennings (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. DT Cullen Jenkins (calf), LB Jameel McClain (knee), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back-shoulder), LB Jacquian Williams (concussion-shoulder) practiced on a limited basis. ...Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger played with fellow rookie Odell Beckham Jr. at LSU. When asked about Beckham's one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, Mettenberger didn't hesitate. ''He has had better in practices at LSU,'' he said, later adding: ''Trust me, if you can get your hands on some of the practice film at LSU you could see just how freaky of catches that he has made in the past.''
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