Shockey's bum knee raises questions

The only thing certain about Jeremy Shockey's ailing knee is that the star TE will not be placed on season-ending IR. After that, no one knows exactly when number 80 will be back on the field. <BR><BR>

And, not surprisingly, he's not talking about it either.

Shockey, who leads all NFL tight ends with 48 receptions, suffered a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Atlanta on Nov. 9.

Fortunately for all parties involved, surgery will not be required.

The original estimate following an MRI stated that Shockey would likely be finished for the season. Two days later, Jim Fassel said Shockey could be back in as few as three weeks.

"We don't know," Fassel said. "Nobody really knows for sure. Sometimes it can be longer, sometimes it can be shorter. Jeremy's pretty well bent on getting back."

What is known is that the Giants will miss their Pro Bowl tight end and key offensive weapon while he's sidelined.

"Jeremy has been a big part of our offense but you can't just unplug a guy like that and say that it is not going to affect you or hurt you," Fassel said.

"We're definitely going to miss Shockey, there's no question about that," Ike Hilliard said. "We haven't played an entire game (this season) without him. With him meaning so much to this offense with what he brought to the table, we're going to miss his enthusiasm and play-making ability. But the show must go on. Guys like myself and Amani (Toomer) and Tiki (Barber) have to elevate our level of play, and we intend to do that."

The starting job now goes to third-year man Marcellus Rivers, with rookie Visanthe Shiancoe also moving up one spot on the depth chart.

Rivers and Shiancoe have combined for 12 receptions this season – exactly 25 percent of Shockey's total – 10 of them by Rivers.

Rivers made the team as a rookie free agent out of Oklahoma State in 2001 and has played in 40 games. Both of Rivers' starts were this season, against New England and Philadelphia, games in which the Giants opened in a two-tight end alignment. Rivers has 46 career receptions and three touchdowns.

"I'm athletic enough and I have enough speed that I can do those plays that they have specifically for Jeremy," Rivers said. "I have done them in the past. I am comfortable doing them."

"Marcellus has come a long way since he first came here," Fassel said. "He has come a long way; his approach to the game, his toughness, his attitude, his effort – everything has come a long way and I feel confident with a lot of things he can do."

Rivers plans to make the most of his opportunity.

"I really don't think we're losing anything," he said. "Jeremy brought a lot of attention and freed up a lot of guys. I feel like if other teams are going to focus more on Tiki, Amani and Ike, and cover me one-on-one or let me free, I think I can help this team out. They know what I'm capable of; I've done it in the past.

"This is a big job, but it's something that I'm capable of doing."

The same cannot be said for Shiancoe, selected in the third round out of Morgan State.

"Shiancoe is a young guy and he is learning what it is all about; the intensity of what we do and little things that make a difference in a game," Fassel said. "But he is learning that and he is a talented young man that is going to be an outstanding player. Right now he is still a rookie and he still makes those types of mistakes.

"I've talked to him before but I told him, 'show me that you are worth a draft pick and where we are with you. You are going to get an opportunity right now to show us and you better be ready to show us because where we are right now, nobody cares if this is your first year or your fifth year, you have to perform.' "

* * * With RCB Ralph Brown out of action at least a couple more weeks with a dislocated right shoulder, and Will Peterson on Injured Reserve with a fractured back, rookie Frank Walker got the starting nod in Philadelphia.

Walker, New York's sixth-round pick out of Tuskegee, experienced the NFL's ups and downs in a hurry.

Walker missed much of training camp with a dislocated elbow, then was inactive for the first five games of the season. He dressed, but did not play, in the first Eagles game on Oct. 19.

The next week, he became the first player this season to intercept Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper, sealing a huge Giants win in the process. The following Sunday against the Jets, Walker was clearly overmatched, being flagged on multiple occasions.

"I've probably surprised everybody a little bit," said Walker, the 207th overall selection in the 2003 Draft. "I'm a sixth-round pick from Tuskegee. They had three picks in the sixth and seventh rounds, and they used one to get an extra defensive back. Whoever thought I'd be starting this season?"

His teammates aren't all that surprised that the confident Walker has risen this fast.

"Frank brings an attitude of machoism," Michael Strahan said. "He can't be beat, he can do it all, he is very confident in everything that he does and he talks about it – he lets you know that he is very confident. I think that – I wouldn't say cockiness, but just sheer confidence in himself, he brings that to the team and I think that rubs off on a lot of other guys."

"He has to work on his confidence a little bit," Kerry Collins joked. "Frank's a very instinctive player, a very smart player. He breaks on the ball well and he challenges receivers. I remember telling Jim (Fassel) in training camp, (number) 41 looks like a good player."

Not surprisingly, Walker believes he's up to the challenge.

"It's a different type of pressure," Walker said. "There's kind of a red dot on me. The only way you can get it off is to make some plays."

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