EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants' struggling offense could soon get a boost with the return of running back Shane Vereen.
Vereen returned to practice with the team on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a partial tear of his triceps muscle in Week 3. And he's far enough along in his recovery, according to a team source, that the "hope" is he'll be ready to play in the Giants' showdown with the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 11.
"Man, I wish I knew, honestly," a clearly excited Vereen said after practice. "It's up to the doctors. I am progressing, doing everything that they have me do each and every day, just trying to take baby steps and hope enough of the baby steps will be to getting back on the field."
Vereen has been on injured reserve since his injury, but he will become the Giants' "designated to return" IR player as long as he's added to the active roster some time in the next 21 days. Giants coach Ben McAdoo would not put a timetable on Vereen's return - he said that will be up to the medical staff - but he was clearly excited by the idea.
"He's a good playmaker," McAdoo said, "(and) the more of those you have on the field at the same time, the better off you'll be."
That almost certainly won't happen this Sunday in Pittsburgh, though. The Giants haven't officially ruled that possibility out, but a team source called that "unlikely." Even Vereen, as optimistic as he sounded, seemed resigned to the fact that his return is at least another week away.
"I just want to come back and be a part of this team," Vereen said. "Missing the last few games, you start to lose the comradery, you start to feel like you aren't so much a part of the team right now, so I can't wait to just feel like I am back. Physically, I feel good. If it was just up to how I felt like, then I would have been back. But there is a lot that goes into it and we have to be smart."
If Vereen can return against the Cowboys it could add a spark to the Giants' lethargic rushing attack, which ranks 31st in the NFL with just 79.5 yards per game. Their rushing attack has improved the last three weeks, topping 100 yards on the ground in each game, though that was against three poor rushing defenses (the Bengals, Bears and Browns).
The Cowboys' defense the Giants will see in two weeks currently ranks third in the NFL, giving up only 81.8 yards per game.
Vereen, 27, was the Giants' third-down and two-minute-drill back during the first three games of the season. He had gained 147 yards on 31 carries for a healthy 4.7 yards per rush. In his final game against the Redskins, when he played through that partially torn triceps, he had 11 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown. He also had eight catches for 75 yards in the first three games.
"[He's] just another weapon, just another extremely talented individual that when the ball is in his hands he can create and make things happen," said Giants receiver Victor Cruz. "And as you know, in this offense we need as much of that as possible."
Vereen, who is in the second year of a three-year, $12.35 million contract and he is making $3.15 million in salary this year, said he hopes he can add "points" to the Giants' offense when he returns. And if that really can happen against the Cowboys, all the better.
"That would be great," he said. "Division opponent, playing against Dallas no less, that would be awesome."