EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., OCT. 9 -- The NFL gave the New York Giants a week off, and they didn't like it. They didn't like the idea of an idle weekend in October, especially one that interrupted a 4-0 start, under the league's new bye system.
But in a 31-17 victory over Dallas just prior to last week's break, the Giants' injury list grew, meaning space in the trainer's room became scarce. Suddenly the bye became a bonus, a chance for bodies to heal an extra week before Sunday's key NFC East matchup with the Washington Redskins.
Following their second two-day vacation during the long break, the Giants returned to work today to continue their preparation for Washington. The number of healthy bodies available was much greater than it would have been had they played the Redskins without two weeks off.
"The break couldn't have come at a better time for me," said nose tackle Erik Howard, who sprained his right ankle against the Cowboys. "Two weeks ago I would have said I didn't like the bye. Now I'm glad we had it."
Howard joined a list of players in pain that included linebacker Carl Banks, who dislocated his left wrist; cornerback and special teams sensation Reyna Thompson, who suffered a dislocated right thumb; wide receiver Odessa Turner, who chipped a bone in his right knee; offensive tackle John Elliott, who was kicked in the left ankle by Dallas's Jim Jeffcoat; and running back Rodney Hampton, who sprained his right ankle.
In addition, tight end Mark Bavaro did not play against the Cowboys because of a sprained ankle sustained the week before against Miami. And linebacker Lawrence Taylor's right hamstring, strained on the final play of the 20-3 triumph over the Dolphins, was not yet 100 percent.
The bye "was fortunate for us in terms of if we had had a game on Sunday, I'm reasonably certain that Hampton would not have played," Coach Bill Parcells said. "I think that by having the time off, there's pretty good chance he might.
"Of course, it allows every team to get healthy and I'm sure it helped Washington in that regard also."
Hampton was the only injured player to miss today's practice. He is expected to work out Wednesday.
Banks, who had a pin taken out of his wrist and a small cast put over it, took part in practice on a limited basis and will play on Sunday. Taylor said he is 100 percent. The Giants, however, will not have the services of left cornerback Mark Collins, kicker Raul Allegre and Turner. Those three, who traditionally have performed well against the Redskins, are on injured reserve.
Collins, who has been so effective in covering Washington's wide receivers, sprained his right ankle in the second game and has been replaced by Thompson. Allegre, whose 52-yard field goal as time expired gave the Giants a 27-24 victory in last season's opener at RFK Stadium, is sidelined with a strained groin muscle. He has been replaced by former Cleveland Brown Matt Bahr.
And Turner, who had two touchdown catches among his six receptions against the Redskins last year, was placed on injured reserve after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee after the Dallas game. His spot on the roster was taken by Stacy Robinson, who has had numerous stints with the Giants, though 5-foot-8 Stephen Baker likely will start.
"I'm just trying to get ready for this week this week," said Parcells, mindful that the Giants play the Redskins again in two weeks, when his wounded players could be in better shape and Collins should be available. "I think you have to do everything you can to win this game, then go on to the next game. If a team doesn't have that mentality, you're in trouble."
In addition to putting his team through its first practice of the week, Parcells today added a special element to specifically prepare his players for RFK Stadium. He had taped crowd noise, complete with booing, sreaming and blowing horns, played at a high decibel level while the offense practiced.
"It's a good place to play," he said of RFK. "The fans are very enthusiastic. The NFC East has three places that are very similar in terms of fan enthusiasm -- here, Philadelphia and Washington. When I think of the NFC East, that's what I think of."