Pierce: I'm playing

Antonio Pierce made no bones about it. He plans to play Sunday when the Giants travel to Detroit for a key conference matchup with the Lions.

Pierce, the Giants' stellar middle linebacker, suffered a mild concussion in last week's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Today, he missed practice for the second day in a row. He clearly is feeling better, because later in the locker room, Pierce adamantly declared that he will be on the field tomorrow and for Sunday's game in Detroit against the Lions.

"I will practice and I will play in the game on Sunday," Pierce said. Actually, he made the assertion more than once. At various times during a interview session with more than a dozen reporters, Pierce said, "I'm practicing tomorrow, so I'll be fine." And "I'm telling you, I'm practicing tomorrow." Plus, "I'll be playing Sunday – and I'll practice tomorrow."

Okay, we get the point. In fairness, Pierce is not expressing that view on an island.

"He is better every day," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "I think he will probably work tomorrow. But they are going to be very cautious, obviously. He feels a lot better. You can tell by the expression on his face that he is doing better."

Pierce was hurt in the first half of the Dallas game. He said it was the first time he ever had a head injury. Pierce was replaced briefly by Chase Blackburn but returned to the game. He finished the game with six tackles (two solo).

"Anytime anybody gets hurt, we just go with the next guy," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "Chase has had all the time this week. You just keep on rolling, put the next guy in there and go. Chase has been around for a long time. He knows the system."

Blackburn is a good player, but it doesn't demean him to say he's not as good as Pierce. Since joining the Giants as a free agent in 2005, Pierce has been a team leader and one of their very best defensive players. Last year, he played in the Pro Bowl. This season, he is tied with safety Gibril Wilson for the team lead in tackles with 70.

"I'm hoping he'll be practicing tomorrow," Spagnuolo said.

"That's my plan," Pierce said. "If I'm not totally broken and I can play and run, then I should be out there. And I think I will be."

Pierce was asked how he got hurt.

"Football," he said. "It's a physical game. I got dinged up one play, stayed in there and did the same thing again. I just wasn't right. I wasn't going to stay out there if I was going to hurt the team.

"Everybody has it (at one time during their career). I think I've been lucky over seven years not to have any injuries like that. It's scary – when I was in the game I couldn't focus. I couldn't get my eyes right. That was kind of unique for me. But everything else has been the same – little headaches. A little pestering thing you have going on. It will go away."

Pierce is not taking a cavalier attitude about his injury. He knows how serious concussions can be, even those that are labeled minor. Pierce wouldn't be so insistent about practicing and playing if he believed he was at risk.

"You have to listen to the doctors," he said. "I'm young. I'm 29. I want to live for a long time. With all that being said, you try to listen to doctors and take their best advice. You have to be smart about it. You take it day-by-day and I did. I feel better today. I thought I was going to go. I'm going tomorrow."

He will not think about the injury once he steps onto the turf at Ford Field.

"I don't ever worry about it," he said. "If you worry about what might happen to you, you wouldn't play this game. Any play can end your career, whether it's (getting hit in) a head or a knee - anything."

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