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Getting Nicks back a big step for Giants

Getting Nicks back a big step for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The return of Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to practice Thursday after missing the previous day with a sprained left knee could only bode well for his on-field rapport with quarterback Eli Manning.

Nicks, whose 53 catches for 629 yards and three touchdowns is solid but not spectacular considering his first three years of work with the team, says he expects not only to be healthy enough to face the Ravens on Sunday, but to add some jump to his season.

``I feel like one day it can all turn around,'' Nicks said. ``I have to keep the right mentality and keep on working hard. I'm a man of faith, so I can't feel like I'm going through all this for nothing. Some good has got to come out of it.''

Nicks battled a toe injury at the beginning of the season, and then added the sprain in Week 2 against Tampa. He hasn't been the same game-breaking receiver since, as his timing with Manning and his overall speed suffered.

``I feel like I'm just off (with Manning) by a hair,'' Nicks said. ``But that's going to change.''

He failed to break a completion last week for big yardage despite having beaten a Falcons defender handily. He barely missed another throw that he could have laid out for, but chose not to.

``That one was in diving range, but I thought I could run up under it and get to the end zone,'' Nicks said.

Two other key Giants didn't practice Thursday for the second straight day: running back Ahmad Bradshaw and defensive end Justin Tuck. Bradshaw, nursing a sprained left knee that kept him out of last week's game, remained inside the trainer's room taking treatment. Tuck, who injured his shoulder against the Falcons, watched practice from the sideline on a stationary bike.

Coach Tom Coughlin said he expected Tuck to get back to work Friday, and added that if Bradshaw can take some snaps he would probably be available for action Sunday against Baltimore (9-5).

Tuck was talking about the Giants' sagging pass rush Thursday, but what he said could have applied to the general philosophy for this week's ``backs-to-the-wall'' game against the physical Ravens.

``Honestly, we have to stop worrying about what people write and what people say about our pass rush,'' said Tuck of a once-vaunted asset that has produced just 32 sacks this year compared to the 48 of a year ago. ``We have to stop looking for answers and instead start focusing on the answer, which is beat the guy in front of you.''

Regardless of the unit, beating the Raven in front of him will become a vital part of Sunday's game. The linemen are in general agreement that matching Baltimore's physicality is key, especially considering the 34-0 shutout loss to Atlanta involved everything but that.

Baltimore sports a tough running game behind Ray Rice, as well as a rugged defensive line that features tackle in Haloti Ngata. The Ravens could be getting back 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis from a Week 6 triceps injury. Ed Reed is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league.

For the defense, stopping Rice will mean gaining advantageous field position and putting quarterback Joe Flacco in third-and-long situations, the better to rejuvenate the Giants' flagging pass rush.

``Stop the run,'' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. ``That would help a whole heck of a lot to get our pass rush going.''

There are easier things to do, however. Rice, with nine touchdowns, has averaged 4.5 yards per rush in a 1,031-yard season. Being stout up front, especially in the middle, is where shutting him down starts. That task begins with the linemen defeating their offensive counterparts up front.

``It starts with winning your individual matchup,'' defensive tackle Chris Canty said. ``You have to do this in terms of team as well as individual. You have to make sure you do your job, do what's required of you, and don't do somebody else's job. You have to trust your teammates to do their job. Trust one another and be accountable and responsible.''

The offense dealing with Ngata and pass-rushing linebacker Terrell Suggs could be made tougher if center David Baas (hip and shoulder) and right guard Chris Snee (hip), both missing practice time this week, are not up to speed.

``We have to play physical no matter what game it is,'' Baas said. ``We didn't do that against Atlanta. This week, it has to be different.

The Ravens already have clinched a playoff spot for an NFL-best fifth consecutive season, but they have lost three straight. The Giants, mindful that a loss in Baltimore combined with Washington and Dallas victories and a Seattle win or a tie will end their playoff hopes, know the physical battle goes beyond individual issues like sacks and totals yards.

It's a matter of out-muscling the opponent this week.


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Demone Harris keeps his promise, surprises the woman who found engagement ring

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Demone Harris keeps his promise, surprises the woman who found engagement ring

Here's some good news for the world.

Demone Harris had a whirlwind of week that he will never forget: He was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week after returning from their game in London, then flew out to Baltimore to work out with the Ravens where he quickly learned that he was missing the engagement ring he planned to purpose to his girlfriend with that same weekend.

Shortly after learning the devastating news, the Ravens called Harris to tell him he not only made the practice squad, but they also found the ring at the hotel Harris was staying at in Baltimore.

Harris received the ring shipped to him overnight and proposed to his girlfriend as planned. (She, of course, said "yes".)

But the happy ending didn't just stop there.Harris took to Twitter in which he was determined to find the person who found the ring and "do something nice" for them. Well, something nice is exactly what he did.

Harris found the woman, Yvonne, who saved the big day and rewarded her with two Visa gift cards of $500 each. It was a gesture, he said to show her how much he and his now fiancé appreciate her kindness and honesty.

"I hope this story gave you guys hope that there are still genuine and good people in the world," he wrote on Twitter.


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Trying to stop Lamar Jackson isn’t easy — neither is blocking for him

Trying to stop Lamar Jackson isn’t easy — neither is blocking for him

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson has excelled this season at keeping opposing defenses on their toes.

The problem is it keeps his teammates in limbo, too.

Jackson is one of the shiftiest players in the NFL, and when he breaks the pocket, there’s no way of knowing what he’ll do. That means there’s no way of knowing what the next step is as an offensive player, either.

“One of the best things about Lamar is how versatile a quarterback he is,” wide receiver Miles Boykin said. “No play is ever dead. We have two plays every time we step out there. If the first play doesn’t work, Lamar is going to find something with his feet or he’s going to find something on a scramble.”

Jackson has 576 yards rushing and three touchdowns so far this season and is on pace for over 1,300 yards rushing on the season. 

Sunday in Seattle, his legs carried the Ravens to a 30-16 win over the Seahawks. And while Seahawk defenders tried their best to slow Jackson down, his teammates did their best to anticipate.

“You just let him do his thing,” guard Marshal Yanda said. “That’s about the easiest way you could say it. Block them as long as we can, if he breaks the pocket and he goes, obviously try to cover him as much as we can down the field.”

As an offensive line, the Ravens' front five must make a determination once Jackson breaks the pocket on what to do. They could go downfield to try to get a step on the defense and risk an illegal man downfield penalty, or stay back and protect Jackson if he decides to set and pass the ball.

Sometimes, though, Jackson makes the decision easy.

“I think if they’re ever in that situation and they feel a breeze going by them, they say, ‘Hey let’s go,’” offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris said with a chuckle. "We better follow that breeze.”

After the original play breaks down, Jackson’s ability to extend sometimes leaves his teammates wondering exactly what he’ll do next.

“Sometimes he’s scrambling, and we’re all out there like, ‘Do we block? Do we try to get open?’” Mark Ingram explained. “You’re trying to be there for him, but he’s just doing crazy stuff.”

When Jackson breaks out of the pocket and the Ravens officially head into a scramble drill, there’s a few set tips that help the rest of the offensive weapons.

Marquise Brown says he has a set responsibility — but can’t share exactly what it is. Willie Snead was a high school quarterback, so he’s at least got some idea of what Jackson wants to do when he breaks the pocket. 

The only thing the Ravens can do is drill it and expect the unexpected when he breaks the pocket, because they certainly don’t want to quell what makes Jackson so special.

“You definitely don’t want to dull that,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “You want to let it happen naturally, let his natural talent take over.”

As a receiver, the main job is to get open. Whatever happens after that is up to Jackson.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do half the time,” Boykin said. “I just have one job, and that’s to get open. If you get open, Lamar is going to find you.”

While the Ravens’ offense might have trouble locating — and deciding — Jackson’s next move, it’s been enough to keep opposing defenses at bay. And Baltimore will take that trade-off every day of the week. 

“We don’t know where Lamar is going to be,” D'Alessandris said. “We have a good idea, but if he’s elusive enough to move, sustain your block and let things happen. I think that’s worked out pretty good for us so far.”