OL depth to be tested in a Giant way

Giants coach Tom Coughlin contends the Giants might still be safe in their protective bubble had the questions not turned more philosophical before their game in Philadelphia.

"Until someone brought it up last week [in a press conference] we had pretty much a season where we started and finished [games] with guys that have been the starters," Coughlin said with a shrug. "It wasn't the case [against the Eagles]."

The next time a coach or player says they aren't superstitious just ignore them.

Over the first 20 minutes of the Giants 26-23 overtime victory in Philadelphia the luck that's preserved their health finally ran dry.

"[Blank] happens. You deal with adversity as it comes," Giants offensive tackle Bob Whitfield said.

Even though the Giants received good news regarding most of the injuries they suffered in Philadelphia, last week's game against the Chiefs was about adjusting and preparing for a postseason that might be played without two of their best defenders, Antonio Pierce and William Joseph, and with their starting offensive tackles at half-strength.

The timing couldn't be worse, especially considering the balanced offenses and imposing defenses the Giants are likely to face in the playoffs.

"Persevere until victory is yours," Coughlin said.

Only Pierce seems seriously hurt. He has a high ankle sprain that was placed in a protective boot last week. His status will be week-to-week. Joseph also has a high ankle sprain, but was not placed in a cast.

"Pierce is having a phenomenal year, a Pro Bowl year," Michael Strahan said. "But he's hurt and he's out. Of course, it doesn't make us a better team, but at the same time you can't look at it and think all hopes are lost, because we have other guys who can play."

Luke Petitgout [back] and Kareem McKenzie [strained hamstring] are much better than originally feared and Coughlin had hoped they could play against the Chiefs.

The Giants are especially concerned about Pierce. High ankle sprains are often very problematic. One ended the season of former Giants quarterback Kerry Collins in 2003 after he was hurt in a December game against the Redskins.

Normally, when someone sprains their ankle the ligaments that surround the ankle joint are stretched or torn. A high ankle sprain injures the large ligament above the ankle that joins together the tibia and fibula, the two bones of the lower leg that run from the knee to the ankle.

High ankle sprains tend not to heal as efficiently which is why coaches normally express more concern about them. If the injury is deemed stable, meaning surgery isn't required, the high ankle sprain can be treated in a cast, usually for a period of six weeks.

"This guy is a guy that has fought his way back from things before," Coughlin said. "But I am not expecting anything miraculous here."

The injuries along the offensive line are particularly troublesome since they'll require a reconstruction of the lineup.

"You don't go into a game and expect Luke to get hurt. And I don't think Kareem has ever missed a game in his career," Giants center Shaun O'Hara said. "I think everyone is beginning to see the fruits of having a healthy offensive line. You can't move guys in and out without it having an effect on your entire offense. We've been blessed."

When Petitgout and McKenzie went down, Coughlin shifted guard David Diehl to right tackle, where he played all of last season. Jason Whittle was inserted at left guard, where he started 15 games last season.

"There wasn't any warning signal with Luke," Coughlin said. "We were playing well and then all of a sudden not playing at all. They said the back locked up on him. He felt he was making progress as the game went on, but it would have been a most difficult thing to have someone else go down [and Petitgout go back in]."

That almost happened when Diehl suffered a pinched nerve in his neck in a helmet-to-helmet collision with Eagles safety Michael Lewis. The Giants called timeout to help Diehl recover, knowing the next option – inserting defensive tackle Fred Robbins at guard and moving Whittle to tackle – was not something they wanted to pursue.

"I knew after Luke and Kareem went down that I couldn't leave," Diehl said. "I had to stay in there, regardless of what it was [wrong]. I knew it wasn't too serious. I just went numb for a while.

"I've never taken myself out a game in my life. I just kept fighting through it and eventually I was fine."

The Giants have always valued versatility in offensive linemen. And those linemen take tests every week to reacquaint themselves with each other's assignments, just in case emergencies arise. The extent of training any defense linemen gets consists of a conversation with the offensive line coach.

"The more the individual can do the better," Coughlin said. "We work Chris Snee [a guard] working with O'Hara and Jason Whittle on the quarterback-center exchanges. And David Diehl has played tackle and guard. And he made the change with poise."

"That's part of being a offensive linemen," Diehl said.

But now they are suddenly faced with a personnel shortage that the activation of guard Rich Seubert will only begin to solve.

"[The Giants] know I'm cool," Whitfield said. "If I get a little run [playing time], I'm going to be cool. I'm a baller. They need to put me in at tight end and wide receiver, too. I just need some action. That's how I play.

"I just do what they ask me to do. A guy like me comes in, underpaid and under-appreciated, with a locker next to a garbage can, no one expects you to do a lot. Then you go out there and whup somebody's [butt]. That's what you have to do.

"I have the best training partners anyone can ask for in [defensive ends] Osi [Umenyiora] and [Michael] Strahan to get me ready for times like this. So you can see I'm prepared. It's like Roy Jones [the boxer] said, ‘You must have forgotten [how good I am],'" Whitfield said. "I still play hard. I play like a beast. My thing is, the only way to play football is to play physical. If I can't bring that to the table, I should just sit my fat butt at home."

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