The Giants have had recent success this past decade because they brought in some extraordinary players with skill, heart and toughness. RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks were two of those players.
This coming Monday they will be at MetLife Stadium again, but on the opposing sidelines with their new team, the Indianapolis Colts. Most of the football-watching public are well aware that these ex-Giant veterans are experiencing a second chapter of their careers alongside the NFL's newest superstar, QB Andrew Luck.
“They were tremendous football players," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin of Nicks and Bradshaw on his Wednesday conference call with the media.
Bradshaw, a seventh round draft pick in 2007, won two Super Bowls with the Giants. He was one of the franchise's most compelling success stories, even with all the injuries he endured. Bradshaw signed with the Colts as s free agent in 2013.
Nicks was the Giants top selection in the 2009 NFL Draft and was one of the club's most prolific receivers until injuries slowed him down as well.
Bradshaw is currently averaging 4.9 yards per carry and is leading all NFL running backs with six receiving TDs. Nicks, who had no TD catches for the Giants in 2013, has two TDs this season but is not a starter. It is clear he is not the player he once was with the Giants but Coughlin has not forgotten the type of players both can be.
"When I watch the tape and I see the way that they progressed and the way they’re playing this year, there’s no doubt that it sends us back a couple of years to when they were both here. They’re outstanding young men, they work hard. You know that in Bradshaw you have a very tough, tough guy who loves to play. It’s interesting, I would kid him that, you know he’s caught as many balls as he has and he’s had success with the catch and run after the catch, and scored a number of touchdowns, and he used to yell at me for wanting to run it more. I wonder now if he wants to catch it more (laughs). But he’s done very well and both of those guys meant a great deal to our team.”
QB Eli Manning has not forgotten how integral Bradshaw and Nicks were to the team's Super Bowl XLVI victory over New England in February of 2012.
“Both those guys were key players," Eli said on his conference call Wednesday.
"Ahmad’s been a key player in two of them for us. He was such a tough guy, a running back that did everything in protection, caught the ball well, so I’ve been happy to see him get back and playing at a high level. He’s been playing outstanding this year and it’s been fun to watch him. Hakeem the same deal, that year had a couple big games in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, had 10 catches I think in the Super Bowl. Playoffs, Atlanta game had two touchdowns, couple other touchdowns, so both those guys were key elements for us.”
Bradshaw always gave the Giants his all and was stung by his release. He was asked on a conference call if their was a little extra "juice" goint into this game.
"Oh of course, " he said. "That was family to me at one time and that was like home to me. Just to be able to go back home and be around old fans, and play in front of old fans of mine, and family, just to get back and see those guys, and be in that atmosphere, it gives you a lot. It makes me anxious just to be ready for this game and be ready to go."
Nicks is less sentimental about his return. He's got enough on his plate trying to get playing time in a group that includes T.Y Hilton, Reggie Wayne and rookie Donte Moncrief.
"We just want to approach it like another game." said Nicks. "It is a game where we know what we have to do as a team going into this game, coming off of the game we had last week. We just have to bounce back and have a great week of practice. I think that is what we are going to look forward to as a team. As far as myself looking forward to this game, I think everybody knows we are all looking forward to this as a game to win because it is the next game."