Rough ride

Filling in for Will Peterson, who returned to practice for one day last week, has been no easy task for Curtis Deloatch, who has struggled - mightily at times - in recent weeks. Part of his recent sub-par play, however, could be traced to a leg infection that hospitalized the former rookie free agent.

"I haven't played to the ability I did during the earlier part of the season," Deloatch said. "I had a little bit of a letdown due to the leg infection, but I'm not going to make any excuses. I'm a man about it. I felt I should have played a lot better these last couple of games."

While Deloatch failed to use the injury as an excuse, his coach went to bat for his troubled corner.

"Certainly (it affected his play)," Coughlin said. "Certainly, it did. The poor kid didn't even practice. He went out there and went a half a day and did the best he could. Basically for most guys, especially young people, it takes the week of buildup, of preparation, of coaching, and of repetitions to get themselves in the proper frame of mind for the game and he did the best he could."

Deloatch has become a weekly target of the New York media.

"It doesn't offend me," he said. "I can take constructive criticism. I'm a corner. I have a short memory. I can't let it bother me. If I had doubts, I wouldn't even put myself out there and risk hurting my teammates."

As the Giants made the final preps for their biggest game of the season, Deloatch declared that he could once again be counted on.

"I feel I'm back focused now and ready to go," he said.

Coughlin, who has repeatedly defended Deloatch, said that he'd remain in the starting lineup - and that the Giants could use extra help from reserves like Frank Walker and rookie Corey Webster.

"They'll all play," he said. "They all will play. Basically, it's been Curtis and Will Allen. I don't see that changing, but everyone will have an opportunity."

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