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Giants battle injury bug as season's stretch run begins

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EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — In his 19 years as an NFL head coach, Tom Coughlin has had to endure his fair share of injuries to his players.

Nothing quite like the rash of health problems that plagued the New York Giants this season.

From the minute the Giants entered their organized team activities last April through minicamp in May and finally training camp in July, the team has never been fully healthy.

There were David Wilson's neck issues in April that eventually led to his retirement after only three seasons.

The team's top defender, linebacker Jon Beason, suffered a foot injury on the first day of the OTAs that limited Beason to just four sporadic games and eventually ended with Beason going on injured reserve, gone for the season.

There were first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr.'s hamstring woes that kept the former LSU speedster on the sidelines through training camp into the first five weeks of the season.

A total of 14 players currently reside on injured reserve, a group that includes the team's top receiver, Victor Cruz; top cornerback Prince Amukamara; and key reserves receiver Jerrel Jernigan, running back Peyton Hillis and cornerback Walter Thurmond.

Recent injuries have forced Coughlin to shuffle his offensive line again, as starting tackle Justin Pugh has been ruled out of Sunday night's game with the Cowboys with a quadriceps injury. Starting linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) have also been ruled out of Sunday's game.

Needless to say, Coughlin is befuddled by the number of injuries as the Giants (4-7) seek to end a five-game slide against the first-place Cowboys (7-3).

"It's certainly a disappointment," Coughlin said after Friday's practice. "It is part of the game and it happens to every team. You pray to have the team you had coming out of (training) camp and it's just not the case. You can't dwell on it, because if you do, you'll end up being a basket case."

One of the injured players has been offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. Signed as a free agent in the offseason to bring stability to the team's blocking unit, Schwartz missed the first 10 games due to an ankle injury. Schwartz has practiced fully over the past week and appears poised to make his Giants debut Sunday.

"I definitely feel like I can play," said Schwartz, who has lined up at both guard and tackle during preparation to face the Cowboys. "I had a good week of practice. I'm excited to play. I've done everything to get ready. There's not much more I can do. I can play tackle or guard and I'll be ready to play at either one. "

Schwartz recognizes how the Giants have been besieged by injuries.

"We've had some unfortunate injuries," he said. "It's definitely unique. It's the worst I've seen since I've been in the league. Most teams don't have to deal with the injuries we have.

"But the injuries shouldn't be an issue, because we have depth. Guys have stepped up and played well. Hopefully, I'll be ready to go Sunday."

Schwartz might get the start at tackle considering Pugh has been declared out. Coughlin didn't tip his hand.

"They never really let me know," Schwartz said. "I'll just be ready to go."

"I have my thoughts," Coughlin said. "But I haven't settled on it yet."

The Giants were expected to make big changes in the line with Schwartz at tackle and Adam Snyder at guard.

"I'm ready," said Snyder, a 10-year veteran who has been inactive in eight of the 10 games this season. "I've been preparing like a professional, like I'm going to play. I've been here to help if I do play. I'm doing my job to the best of my ability."

Running back Rashad Jennings has just returned to action after missing five games with a knee injury.

"We have had a lot of injuries," Jennings said. "It's the most I've seen in my career. But it's the NFL and it's the best of the best. It doesn't make it hard to compete and you can't let it control what you do. It's part of the sport. We all wish we had the team we had in training camp. We still have to go to battle."

NOTES: Friday marked the 10th anniversary of the date Coughlin inserted rookie Eli Manning as the starting quarterback, displacing Kurt Warner. "It was a heck of a move by me, wasn't it? At that point in time, we had Kurt Warner, who was a great pro and a great human being, but I felt it was time for the good of the future of the franchise to take the franchise quarterback and put him on the field," Coughlin said Friday. "It was a good move in the long run because of what obviously happened that year and the years to come."


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