EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - There is a chance, after all, that two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck will play in the New York Giants’ season opener against the Washington Redskins.
A day after expressing some serious concerns about a lingering neck injury, Tuck practiced on a limited basis Friday and was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in Washington by coach Tom Coughlin.
“I’m hopeful,” Tuck said in stopping briefly to address the injury after initially walking away from reporters in the locker room. “We’ll see what happens.”
Coughlin said Tuck moved around “pretty good” in practice.
“I am sure still he was still cautious, but he went out,” Coughlin said. “We were in shells, so there was a lot of hand-to-hand combat but that was about it. He did go out, practice, run around, took his snaps.”
Coughlin said whether Tuck plays might depend on how he feels tomorrow.
While Tuck seemingly was on the mend after missing practice Thursday, tight end Travis Beckum had to leave practice when his right hamstring tightened. He was listed as questionable, meaning free agent Jake Ballard probably will get the start.
“I have been waiting for this for two years,” said Ballard, who spent most of last season on the Giants practice squad until being signed to the active roster late in the season. “I played in one game and now I am getting the nod to start, so I am very excited.”
Ballard knows he is going to have a big role Sunday because he got an invitation to attend Eli Manning’s Friday meeting with the receivers. He sat in on a couple last year, but this one was different.
“Eli talked to me,” Ballard said. “I wasn’t just sitting there listening to what everyone else said. It felt good. That’s how this whole week and training camp has gone. I’m one of the guys they are depending on and I am ready to carry the load.”
The emphasis of the meetings is to make sure Manning and his receivers are on the right page when they see the Redskins in certain formations. It’s something they go over in practice, but the Friday meeting gives Manning one more time to discuss things.
The meetings might carry more weight this season because the Giants not only lost tight end Kevin Boss in the offseason, but receiver Steve Smith as well.
Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon have the talent to replace Smith, who signed with Philadelphia. But the tight end spot is iffy. During the summer, everyone felt the Giants would re-sign Boss. However, he took a four-year, $16 million deal with Oakland.
Beckum, Ballard and Bear Pascoe survived training camp, but none can do the things Boss did. He could block and catch passes.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has been impressed with Ballard, though. He showed the potential to be a good blocker and he has improved in that area.
“Where he’s surprised me a little bit, he’s doing a little bit more catching the ball,” Gilbride said. “I always knew he could catch it, but he’s actually getting himself open and we’ve thrown the ball to him a few times in the preseason and I can’t honestly say that I saw that necessarily happening. But it’s been happening with regularity both in practice and in the preseason.”
Beckum, a third-round draft pick in 2009, was expected to be the pass-catching tight end, but he has been bothered by an ankle injury, a pulled left hamstring and now a tweaked right one. He also has blown a few assignments, annoying Gilbride.
Beckum said he is hoping for the best, but it is obvious he is frustrated with the injuries. He does not know if he will be able to play Sunday.
“I think you can go uphill from here or downhill and hopefully, I am going to try to stay positive about the situation and look at it as an obstacle I have to overcome,” Beckum said.
“Hopefully, I can help this team put some points on the board and get some victories.”
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