Rodney Hampton was one of the quietest great players in Giants history and one of the most unassuming stars in New York sports during his eight-year tenure with the team (1990-97). Hampton was accessible and cordial to the media, but he almost never said anything controversial, or even interesting enough to garner attention. The only headlines he merited were for his work on the field.
Hakeem Nicks is becoming his generation’s Rodney Hampton. Without much fanfare, he is one of the very best at his position in the NFL. If he stays on his present track, Nicks will be one of the finest wide receivers to ever wear a Giants uniform. He’ll stand at his locker, as he did today, and answer question after question without uttering anything even remotely inflammatory.
Nicks knows he might receive more acclaim outside the Giants’ locker room if he spoke up. But like Hampton, Nicks is very comfortable with who he is and what he does.
“That’s not my style,” he said about talking to get more attention. “That’s not the way I go about things. I’d rather just put it all on (game) tape and save the talking for later.”
What’s at least mildly ironic is that Nicks plays a position that is the home office for NFL divas. When fans think of receivers, the loud, demonstrative types like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco jump to mind. The quiet guys like Nicks? Not so much. But that means little to Nicks, because recognition is one of the last things he wants from football.
“I’m not really into all that,” Nicks said. “I don’t listen to the he say, she say stuff. I just play the game the way I’ve been playing it and if they recognize me, they recognize me. If they don’t, I don’t look at it any different.”
Nicks is so happy to avoid the limelight he is a social media holdout. He’s not on Facebook. He has no interest in Twitter.
“That’s not my personality,” Nicks said. “My marketing guy wants to get a Twitter going and I come home and I forget I have Twitter.”
What Nicks does is play. He was at his best Sunday, when the Giants earned a 31-27 comeback victory over the Cardinals in Arizona. Nicks caught 10 passes for a career-high 162 yards. He set up one touchdown with a spectacular grab on the right sideline before scoring the winning touchdown on a 29-yard pass down the left side from Eli Manning.
“Hakeem certainly made a couple of huge plays,” Coach Tom Coughlin said.
That has become his norm. With 24 catches for 347 yards and two touchdowns, Nicks is on pace to finish the season with 96 receptions for 1,388 yards and eight scores. Last year, he played in only 13 games because of injuries but still finished with 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 scores.
“I feel like I’m scratching the surface,” Nicks said. “I don’t feel I’ve reached it yet. It’s still year three for me. I don’t ever want to feel like I’m getting too big-headed. I always stay humble, within myself. I feel there’s always stuff for me to work on.”
Nicks, the Giants’ first-round draft choice in 2009, on Sunday put up better numbers than Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals’ perennial Pro Bowler, who had eight receptions for 102 yards and did not score. Typically, Nicks cares little about such comparisons.
“I don’t necessarily try to get into that,” Nicks said. “I watch him, though, because obviously he’s a very talented wide receiver, top of the line. I was watching him as he performed out there, but as far as comparing, I don’t get into all of that.
“It’s a good feeling, but it’s something I don’t really get into. It’s two different offenses. I’m glad I did put up numbers like that, but he had an excellent game as well. He’s a great player.”
Nicks is a fan of his contemporaries like Fitzgerald.
“I speak to pretty much every other receiver we face,” he said. “(There’s) no hatred. They say, ‘Keep (playing), keep doing what you’re doing, good luck.’”
Some of those receivers might get more acclaim – and perhaps, Pro Bowl votes – because they make a greater effort to put themselves out in public in front of the media more often. That’s fine – for them, Nicks said.
“I have no awe in my heart for any man,” he said.
But Nicks’ understated style can mask a fierce competiveness, as it did with Hampton.
“I play to be the best,” Nicks said. “That’s my personal goal. But as far as other people acknowledging it, that doesn’t make a difference to me. I do it for myself and God. I play for God. He’s the one that gave me these abilities.”
And the Giants are the team blessed to have him.
*Six Giants did not practice today: center David Baas (neck), linebacker Michael Boley (knee), running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), defensive end Justin Tuck (neck/groin) and cornerbacks Corey Webster (personal) and Prince Amukamara (foot).
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (ribs) were limited.
Baas, who has a burner, is day-to-day, Coughlin said. Kevin Boothe, who played center the entire second half of the Giants’ victory Sunday at Arizona, again stepped in for Baas.
Coughlin said Boley and Jacobs “are scheduled to go to tomorrow.”
*Midway through his news conference, Coughlin was asked about Amukamara, the first-round draft choice who broke his foot on Aug. 6 and subsequently underwent surgery. “Ask me again after the bye,” Coughlin said. Instead, he was asked again about five minutes later.
“Prince is not ready to go,” Coughlin said. “He’s not going to be for a while. We’re not going to mess around here. Until he’s ready to go…I really don’t ask about him every day, as you can probably tell. I don’t know much about that, because to me, it’s off somewhere in the distance. While I watch him and I see what you see, and I see his reaction to the work - it’s very slow, as you would imagine, but it’s gradual. And we’re making progress.”
Coughlin said Amukamara has suffered no setbacks. “I never expected it (his return) any earlier, to be honest,” Coughlin said.
When Amukamara was hurt, it was thought he might miss eight-10 weeks. It’s possible his absence will exceed that. Amukamara said that disappoints him “a lot,” but he understands the importance of not returning too early.
“I learned throughout this process to be patient and not rush it,” he said. “Don’t want to get on the field too early and reinjure it.”
Amukamara said he puts pressure on the bone when he cuts and runs.
“Especially at my position as a defensive back,” he said. “You are constantly in your backpedal and constantly changing direction, so of course you are going to have pressure there and that’s going to affect the foot a little bit.”
*The Giants terminated the contract of cornerback Brian Williams, who was signed on Aug. 24 and played in the team’s first four games. His place in the secondary was taken by four-year veteran Justin Tryon, who was signed yesterday.