Gettin' a leg up

Rich Seubert's day now begins before 6 a.m., a few hours earlier than the rest of the Giants because he doesn't want to "bother" his healthy teammates. "The guys that are playing, they have priority," Seubert said. And Seubert isn't playing right now. <BR><BR>

But he still comes in early every day – even early by Tom Coughlin's standards – because he's tired of not playing and he's determined to play again. He never imagined that the horrible broken leg he suffered last October would still have him standing on the sidelines in street clothes. And he doesn't want to stand there anymore.

"I thought I'd be back already," Seubert said. "I thought I'd be back by camp. Now I just want to get back out there. In my mind, I want to play. I don't know the percentage – 50-50, 60-40, who knows? I know I want to play and I'll do everything I can in the next four weeks to prove that I can."

It has been almost a year since that awful day – Oct. 19 – when Seubert's career seemed to be placed in jeopardy by a freak accident on the field. All he was doing was blocking – nothing different than he usually does – when his right leg was accidentally stepped on by Eagles defensive end N.D. Kalu.

What most people remember next were the sounds – the frightening snap when his leg broke in several places that a few of his teammates could hear, followed by the agonizing screams as the 6-3, 305-pound guard dropped to the ground. He suffered a spiral fracture in his leg – a serious break where the bone is literally twisted apart. He broke his fibula and tibia and his ankle was fractured, too.

To this day, the 25-year-old Seubert swears he never once thought that his career would end because of the injury, not even as he was carted off the field and waved to the Giants Stadium crowd. But how could he not? He needed a steel rod, a metal plate and 12 screws inserted into his leg.

In all, Seubert has had five surgeries on his leg – the last one coming in August when the screws were removed from his ankle. He may eventually have another one to remove the rod from his tibia and maybe some cosmetic surgery after he's done playing to clean up some of the many gigantic scars that tattoo his leg.

But believe it or not, he's feeling much better lately. The pain that used to run constantly from his knee to his ankle eased after the screws were removed.

"I think the fear of me hurting it worse is out of my system now," Seubert said. "Basically the pain I feel is the pain I'm going to have."

So, having come to grips with that pain, Seubert decided it was time to concentrate his efforts on returning to the field as quickly as possible. So a few weeks ago he told the Giants trainers it was time to give his rehab a "push."

"I just told the trainers I'm ready to start going," Seubert said. "If I want to come back I've got to start getting back into shape and running and pushing off and stuff. And I can feel (the leg) getting better. When I first starting running, I'd run one day and then just do cardio. But for the last couple of weeks I was (running) two days in a row."

He does much more than running, of course. Seubert's long and tedious daily routine begins around 5:45 a.m. He starts by soaking his leg in a hot tub, and then gets it massaged. When he's done, he does some isometric toe and ankle exercises, followed by some upper and lower body weight lifting. Then he does an hour of cardiovascular exercise before the team meetings begin.

Later, he joins his teammates on the practice field, but he spends his time in the well-marked "rehab area," riding the bike or doing other exercises far away from practice, which of course is where he'd rather be.

Unfortunately for Seubert, he's not only fighting his body as he tries desperately to play this season, he's also fighting the clock. He's on the physically unable to perform list, which means he can't practice until after the sixth week of the season. After that, the Giants get a three-week window to decide whether he can help them this year, or whether they'll have to end his season by putting him on injured reserve.

After missing 11 games last season and at least the first half of this season, Seubert isn't thrilled with the prospect of not playing at all this season, even though he understands it's a definite possibility. He's not only dealing with the rehabilitation of his leg, he also has to get himself back into football shape. And he'll have to do it without the benefit of an offseason program, training camp or any preseason games.

And there's another key question: If he is ready to play, where will he fit in? His old spot at left guard is now occupied by once-and-former Giant Jason Whittle, and rookie Chris Snee is filling the right guard position admirably. In truth, the much-maligned line has been jelling just fine in Seubert's absence. So if he comes back, he'll probably only be a reserve.

But at this point in his comeback, that's better than nothing. Seubert just wants to play.

"If the team needs me this year, great," Seubert said. "If they don't need me or they want to let it heal or I'm not feeling good … well then it's going to be like that. But I've only played a year and a half. This isn't going to end my career."

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