Hot Corner

The ups, the downs, the good times and bad, the games when he's in the starting lineup and the occasions when he's told to sit out, it's all part of the deal for Aaron Ross, who is fairly new to the NFL experience but well-versed in all things related to the position of cornerback.

"I've been playing corner for a long time, I've been beat in high school, in college, it's going to happen,'' Ross said. "The short memory, that's something a DB really has to have.''

It is a trait Ross ensures all who will listen that he does have. There's no reason not to believe him. His demeanor rarely changes, after a huge play or game-changing interception or a small play or game-turning mistake. The demands of perhaps the most demanding spot on the field other than quarterback seem to roll off his back. That's a good thing, considering he's been tested early and often during his short stay with the Giants.

He came in through the front door, arriving as a coveted first-round draft pick from a football factory (Texas) that churns out NFL players, a program that knows its way around success. It did not take long for Ross to force his way into the starting lineup and how many players can say that as a rookie they started at such a key spot for a Super Bowl champion?

Rarely does anything come easy, though, even though it appeared to be for Ross. Five games into his second season he endured the worst game of his still-young career and the very next week he found himself briefly demoted, removed from the base defense. It's all part of a learning process that every player goes through and part of an education that can prove to be too rigorous for cornerbacks without strong mental and emotional footing.

Everything was moving along smoothly for Ross and the Giants, who were 4-0 when they went into Cleveland for a Monday Night Football game against the struggling Browns. Ross helped the Browns out of their struggles. First, he missed a tackle on a short completion for Braylon Edwards, turning the play into a 49-yard gain and leading to a field goal. Next, he bit on a double-move by Edwards and was totally out of position on a 70-yard completion that led to a touchdown.

Rather than hide from his dismal play, Ross stood in front of his locker and took it like a man.

"Rough day,'' he said. "Wish I could have it back but have to move on to next week. A [defensive back] has to have a short memory.''

Six days later, Ross was playing decently enough against the 49ers until the second quarter, when he ran with rookie Josh Morgan but did not make a strong play on the ball in what became a 30-yard touchdown pass from J.T. O'Sullivan. Ross saw the ball coming but swiped at it too late to make a difference.

On the next defensive series, Ross overran a swing pass for Frank Gore, allowing what should have been a negligible pickup to turn into an 11-yard gain. On the next defensive series, Ross was on the sideline as Kevin Dockery took over with the base defense. Ross played in the nickel package for the next two series before returning to his starting spot in the second half.

"It wasn't frustrating at all, it was just a decision Coach made, got to live by it, we won the game by that decision so it worked out,'' Ross said. "I wouldn't say slump, I hadn't been performing to my best ability. You don't lose confidence; it's just a business decision. You have to be a man in this league.''

Tom Coughlin did not make a big deal of the temporary demotion, saying "A guy makes a mistake and he needs to come to the sideline to talk about it or discuss it or take a series to kind of go back over his thoughts and get himself collected. There is nothing wrong with that."

Coughlin went on to say Ross had "very tight coverage the majority of the day and played well." But enough was enough.

"Coach came up to me and told me he hadn't lost any confidence in me at all,'' Ross said. "Actually by the end of the game I was back in with the ones. A couple of series I had to sit out, get my mind right and he put me back in there.''

No one has any issue with the physical ability Ross displays and there's no real desire to replace him with Dockery on a full-time basis. The coaching staff always looks for signs in young players to see if they go in the tank or rise above their difficulties. Ross never appears flustered and promised to spend more time studying and watching film to ensure he gets out of what he insists is not a slump.

"Against Cleveland, I had a bad game,'' Ross said. "[Against the 49ers] I had a bad play. We were watching film and I had pretty good coverage. It was just that one play that everybody's seen on TV that makes it seem like it was bad. I wouldn't say I'm in a slump. I just have to make the plays when they come."

What the Giants like about Ross is that he listens.

"He's a professional,'' said Sam Madison, the veteran cornerback who this season spends more time counseling than he does covering. "We had a talk. I've been in that situation before, where older guys called on me."

Ross doesn't mind the advice, just as long as he doesn't need it too often.

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