NFL

Hair's something new: Austin healthy, ready to go

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)

It was hard to identify defensive tackle Marvin Austin when the New York Giants reported to training camp at the University at Albany.

The dreadlocks were gone, replaced by a much neater - and shorter - haircut.

The style is significant because this is a new start for Austin. And he needs it. He missed his final season at North Carolina after being suspended. Then, he was dismissed from the team. After being drafted in the second round by the Giants (No. 3 in the AP Pro32) in April 2011, he tore a pectoral muscle in a preseason game against Chicago and missed the season.

Anything else?

''I am having so much fun out there just learning the game at the NFL level and getting into it,'' Austin said Tuesday before lunch at the University at Albany. ''Being part of the team is the biggest thing, and that's something people don't understand.''

Austin has looked good in training camp but he knows he has to produce.

''A lot of people want to see what I can do on the field and I have to go out there and prove I can play at this level,'' said Austin, who did most of his rehabilitation at the team's headquarters in New Jersey.

Austin's first game will be against Jacksonville on Friday night, which brings us back to the hair.

''This is a new beginning for me,'' he said. ''I want to help the organization the best I can, and I was getting tired of the old hairdo .It was a lot of things that came with the old hair and this is a new lease on life.''

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Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has started running pass patterns, but coach Tom Coughlin doesn't expect him to practice for at least another week. Nicks broke his foot during organized team activities this spring and has been placed on the physically unable to perform list. He had been running straight ahead for a while and he ran in circles on Monday to see how his foot felt.

The four-year veteran isn't worried about whether he plays in the preseason. He hopes to make the season opener against Dallas Sept. 5.

''My main concern is making sure that when I do step on the field that I'm healthy, and I'm 100 percent,'' he said. ''That's our whole focus right now - need to make sure we're taking the right steps to make it that way.''

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EXTRA POINTS: CB Terrell Thomas was supposed to discuss his knee injury with the media on Tuesday but it was pushed back a day. .... With Tyler Sash suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a violation of the league's performance enhancing drug policy, special teams coach Tom Quinn has to fill a hole at fullback on punts. Safety Stevie Brown, linebacker Chase Blackburn and receivers Isaiah Stanback and Dan DePalma have a chance at that spot. ... DE Osi Umenyiora made the play of the day Tuesday, intercepting a throwback screen pass by Eli Manning and showboating it to the end zone. ''I thought we had beat him with that screen a few times this preseason, and I thought he had been suckered in again,'' Coughlin said. ''He was a long way down the line of scrimmage, and then he turned around and recovered, and made a really nice catch on the ball.'' ... Rookie CB Jayron Hosley made a nice one-handed interception in the workout. ... CB Prince Amukamara returned to practice after missing a day with a hamstring issue. ... OTs Will Beatty (back) and James Brewer (back), LBs Jacquian Williams (hip) and Jake Muasau (hamstring), DE Justin Trattou (ankle) and RB Da'Rel Scott (thigh contusion) all missed practice.

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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Giants, Will Beatty, Marvin Austin

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