By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sport Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ After three major knee injuries, New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas knows this is probably his last chance to salvage his career.
Thomas practiced Tuesday for the first time since training camp opened. He started camp on the active physically unable to perform list.
Once the Giants’ top cornerback and leading tackler, Thomas has missed the last two seasons with anterior cruciate ligament injuries in his right knee. The injury in 2011 happened in a preseason game.
The second occurred last year on the first weekend of camp. The six-year veteran also had an ACL injury while at Southern California.
Understandably, the odds are against him. However, Thomas wants to face the challenge. His goal is to play when New York opens the season Sept. 8 at Dallas.
“I’m a huge fan of the way he’s been gong though this whole process as far as his rehabbing and keeping his eye on the prize and never counting himself out,” safety Antrel Rolle said.
“Even when times got tough for him once, even when times got almost impossible for him twice, he’s still hanging in there, he’s still doing the things he needs to do to get on the field. And he still has the same strength as far as a mindset. He doesn’t want to come in just to fill a role. He wants to come in to play, he wants to come in to be a starter, he wants to come in to compete.”
Unlike a year ago, neither Thomas nor the team is in a rush to see what he can do. He’ll take maybe half the snaps at practice, and be cautious whenever necessary.
He tweaked a hamstring during conditioning drills when the team reported July 26, and that led to his spot on the PUP list, he said.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment, so I think it’s natural to be nervous when you’ve been playing so long.”
Thomas took a few snaps in 7-on-7 drills and was beaten by Victor Cruz on a quick crossing pattern.
“A lot of people have been rooting for me and I’m happy just to be in a position to be blessed to have another opportunity, but it’s just Day 1,” he said. “It’s a long road ahead of me and I know that, but I’m not afraid of any challenge or test. I just have to be prepared.”
The Giants’ leading tackler in 2009 and `10, Thomas will face a challenge at cornerback with veterans Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Aaron Ross and Jayron Hosley all competing for time.
What Thomas has working for him is that he is an excellent student of the game. And when healthy he could be used in the nickel spot or as a third safety if defensive coordinator Perry Fewell wanted extra quickness.
“The major thing is to get him on the field, get him practicing, bring him along accordingly, and then let him show us,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “I’m not speculating for a reason. He has been an outstanding football player and we think he can be again. Of course, we have to get him on the field. This is a good start. It will be slow, but we’ll get to that point.”
Thomas is focused more on his job than the competition. He is driven by a desire to prove his doubters wrong, the people who insist a player can’t come back from three ACL operations.
This, however, is his last stand.
“That’s how I look at it, to be honest with you because in this league, it comes by and they’re looking for the next guy and there’s always competition, especially when you have a lot of injuries, they count you out,” he said. “But you never know. I’m not looking at it that way, but I’m pushing myself to say this is my last chance to prove a lot of people wrong and to get back on the field.”
NOTES: Thomas and starting G Chris Snee (hip) were activated off the PUP list. …DE Jason Pierre-Paul said he is making progress in his rehabilitation from back surgery in June but is unsure if he will be ready for the season opener. . Coughlin had a few words for Fewell after S Ryan Mundy knocked down RB Ryan Torain and LB Jacquian Williams knocked down RB Da’Rel Scott. … Safety Stevie Brown also knocked down Victor Cruz after the receiver caught a pass, but that seemed an accident. … OL James Brewer was dinged early in practice and TE Larry Donnell rolled his left ankle. … First-round draft pick (OT) Justin Pugh did not practice because of a concussion.
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