One play can end it all.
So it was with Terrell Thomas Monday night. On the first play of the final series of the first half of Monday's 41-13 preseason win over the Bears, Thomas got tangled up with Jason Pierre-Paul while going after Jay Cutler on a minus-3-yard completion to Marion Barber and blew out his right ACL.
Rehab time is typically seven to nine months. So, Thomas' season is over after having made four tackles against the Bears, including that tackle for loss. And for the Giants, that's awfully bad news considering he was poised for a big year.
"The timing couldn't be worse," said defensive captain Justin Tuck when reminded that this was Thomas' big push toward a big free agent payday next season. "My heart goes out to him. He's done everything the right way, done everything the coaches asked of him."
There was even talk before the Giants re-signed Deon Grant that he could serve as the hybrid linebacker in the three-safety alignment that worked so well last year. So, indeed, big things were expected of Thomas, and the cornerback himself had pointed at the Pro Bowl as a season's goal.
Instead, the Giants are left with starter Corey Webster, struggling former first-rounder Aaron Ross, and not a whole lot behind them. Michael Coe has the most experience, but there's not much of that. Beyond him, it's first-year player Joe Burnett, undrafted rookie Darnell Burks, and third-year veteran Brian Witherspoon. And Witherspoon went in for knee x-rays in the fourth quarter, so the CB ranks may thin even more, if only temporarily.
Add the broken left foot first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara suffered his first day in camp, and the cornerback situation is all but destitute. Amukamara still has six to seven weeks to go in his rehab from screw implantation, and he has yet to run on it.
Might be time for Jerry Reese to scan the waiver wire.
"Absolutely," Reese said when asked if it was time to gather some cornerbacks. "We'll find some."
Thomas tore the same ACL he ripped at USC in 2005 near the end of what Tom Coughlin had planned as an extended stint for a second preseason game. The starters were expected to play between 25 and 30 plays. As the defense having taken just 11 in the first quarter, Coughlin kept the starters in for the entire second half.
It is unclear as to whether players can come back from two ACL tears in the same knee.
"We extended the play time a bit to take full advantage of the fact that we had no offseason and a short preseason. So we extended the play time.
"We'll have to address it. We have to make some decisions as to whether there's anybody out there we can bring in. We had numbers in corner and safety, but those numbers have been depleted."
Coughlin said the defense had played within the range of snaps he had planned. And with the Bears in the two-minute drill, he thought the experience would do the starters good.
Indeed, both Thomas and Pierre-Paul were upfield as Cutler rolled. And then the defenders' legs tangled.
"It looked like they ran into each other," Coughlin said.
"I don't even remember hitting him," Pierre-Paul said. "I turned around and Terrell was on the ground."
The starting assignment now goes to Ross, who ironically lost his job to Thomas two years ago to a hamstring injury.
"Now my job is to fill in," Ross said. "Hopefully, the coaches still have confidence in me. You know, corners go down like flies around here. But Michael Coe is ready to step in."
Here's the rest of what went well and what went bad against the Bears, not that any of it matters much.
DA'REL SCOTT: The seventh-round draft pick might well be headed to the practice squad given the packed backfield situation. But he made a case for himself in the fourth quarter with a 97-yard touchdown run on which he blasted up the middle and outran the entire defense by a good five yards to go untouched.
Rhys Lloyd: The strong-legged kickoff specialist had never attempted a field goal or extra point in his career, but he hit a 25-yard field goal in place of the injured Lawrence Tynes in the first quarter. He later put the Giants up 13-3 in the second quarter with a 37-yarder.
Brandon Jacobs: Hungry, much? He showed the power the Giants expect out of him on several runs. Also speed and agility in the open field as he put a tiny sidestep on the safety and changed directions to hit a clear path to the end zone on his 18-yard touchdown run the first play of the second quarter.
Victor Cruz: Great leaping catch on fourth-and-4 over D.J. Moore to put the ball at the 10 and set up the Giants' first-quarter field goal. He might have secured a spot on the team with that one catch.
Greg Jones: The sixth-round linebacker made a touchdown-saving tackle on Marion Barber on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the third quarter and blocked a punt near the end of the first half to give the Giants the ball at the Chicago 6. David Carr took advantage of the block with a 5-yard scoring pass to Domenik Hixon. Jones was impressive in the opener against Carolina, too, and appears to have improved from there.
MARK HERZLICH: The undrafted rookie and cancer survivor out of Boston College made a touchdown-saving interception as the Bears drove to the 5 in the fourth quarter.
Eli Manning: He didn't have a horrendous game, but had receivers like Mario Manningham and Cruz not bailed him out, he'd have finished with much worse than his 8-of-16, 78-yard, no touchdown numbers. He was wild high much of his six series of work. But he didn't throw a pick, which is an encouraging plus. David Carr took over the penultimate series of the second quarter.
Kenny Phillips: He looked a step off, especially as Jay Cutler completed a 32-yard pass to Earl Bennett in the second quarter.
Hakeem Nicks: He didn't look anything like his explosive self, but he was especially faulty as he let an easy, quick throw over the middle go through his hands near the goal line. He was targeted four times and caught one pass for minus-1 yards.
ADRIAN TRACY: The second-year defensive end got a roughing the passer penalty on Caleb Hanie when the game was well in hand in the fourth quarter.