Tiki: Injuries not Jacobs' Fault

In his previous role as the director of player personnel, Jerry Reese coordinated the NFL Draft for the Giants, meaning on his watch the Giants selected Brandon Jacobs. Once Reese became general manager, he traded for Reuben Droughns and decided to gamble on a talented prospect but at times wayward youngster in Ahmad Bradshaw.

Those three running backs, plus an unheralded reserve named Derrick Ward, comprised the four-man backfield that Reese handed over to Tom Coughlin as the committee replacement for Tiki Barber, the franchise career leader in virtually every rushing category. In that group, Reese figured he has power and brute force (Jacobs), experience (Droughns), versatility (Ward) and potential (Bradshaw).

But Reese also knew no matter how much you have, you never have enough.

"That's a position you know you're four snaps from having four backs to having no backs,'' Reese said.

The losses have not quite created such carnage but the Giants have unquestionably been tested as far as depth in their offensive backfield. Jacobs in the season opener in Dallas did not escape the first quarter of his first career start without straining a knee ligament, an injury that kept him out for three games. Ward filled in admirably but the 1-2 punch the Giants envisioned never really materialized, as Ward was hobbled by ankle and groin injuries and missed four straight games.

After escaping Ford Field in Detroit with a 16-10 victory over the Lions, the Giants again were hit with a blow to their running back depth, as Jacobs after a busy afternoon did not make it out of the third quarter. He was forced to the sideline with a strained left hamstring, the first time in his football life that Jacobs had ever sustained an injury to his hamstring.

No Jacobs. No Ward. The Giants went into their home game against the Vikings severely depleted at running back, which is why veteran Patrick Pass, the former Patriots player and owner of three Super Bowl rings, was signed as an insurance policy, albeit only for a very brief period.

"We still have guys we believe in, we believe Reuben's proven, he's done it,'' Reese said prior to facing the Vikings. "Bradshaw, he led us in rushing in the preseason, which is not the real thing, but he did flash that he has some ability to play back there. I think they can carry the load if Ward or Jacobs can't make it back.''

Neither Ward nor Jacobs made it back and tucked into the Giants' ridiculous 41-17 thrashing by the Vikings was non-productive work by the backfield. Of course, the Eli Manning meltdown (four interceptions directly leading to 28 Minnesota points) grabbed the headlines but tucked away was a poor rushing performance. Droughns in his first full-time action ran 15 times for only 46 yards and one touchdown.

Bradshaw in limited action showed flashes with four rushing attempts for 29 yards, no doubt earning a shot at increased playing time.

Bradshaw was devalued in the draft because of character issues relating to off-the-field incidents while at the University of Virginia (underage possession of alcohol) and at Marshall (stealing video games from a dorm room). Reese back in April decided taking Bradshaw with the 250th overall pick was a worthwhile gamble and declared Bradshaw was "on a short leash.''

Thus far, Bradshaw's only indiscretion was losing a fumble on a kickoff against the Packers, which put him on Tom Coughlin's Do Not Touch list for several weeks. Bradshaw slowly got back in Coughlin's good graces, as he secured the kick return job with an 83-yard return (called back by a holding penalty) against the Cowboys and a 68-yard return the next week in Detroit.

"We got a lot of faith in Ahmad, he's shown that he has some magic with the ball in his hands,'' Reese said.

This sort of shuffling was not in the plans, as the Giants wanted to hand Jacobs the ball and declare him Barber's successor. Injuries have delayed that ascension. The Giants grew to count on Barber far more than they ever realized, as he never missed a game in his last five seasons. Barber played in 80 consecutive games to close out his 10-year career and established an NFL record by leading his team in rushing in all 80 games.

Jacobs is built like a tank but has shown that he is far less durable.

"He'll be great for a few years, but he's going to have to find a way to stay healthy,'' said Barber, who every week watches his former team on television. "It's the hardest thing in the world to do. I was lucky, because they didn't get rid of me, I became expendable after a couple of years and they held on to me and gave me a chance. I don't know if they do that too much any more.

"I see what I expected of him. When he gets his shoulders downhill you can't do anything with him as a defender, because he's going to take the extra yardage on you by running you over or running around you. The question that everybody had was can he handle the load? As I always told these guys when I was back there with 'em, your most important job is to be on the field.

"You don't blame him. It's a hard process. I went through the same exact thing when I was young. I can't tell you how many times I pulled my hamstring. It's a process to learn how to take care of your body. Brandon is a bigger target than I ever was. It's not his fault; it's just the way it happens. Your body is something that's not easy to get a grasp of. It sounds weird to say but there's little things you need that you probably don't even know you need until you need them.''

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