Giants WR Steve Smith will miss Cowboys game

The Giants will have to get by for the foreseeable future

without their top possession receiver, Steve Smith.

On Friday, Smith, one of the NFL’s best third-down receivers

with 11 of his 47 catches coming in that situation, was officially

ruled out of Sunday’s game vs. Dallas (1-7), with what coach Tom

Coughlin described as a partially torn pectoral muscle.

Mario Manningham, sporting the Giants’ biggest per-catch average

at 15.4 yards, will replace Smith at the split end. Second-year,

big-play star Hakeem Nicks, the NFL’s top-scoring wide receiver

with nine touchdowns, will remain at flanker.

Second-year player Ramses Barden and undrafted rookie Duke

Calhoun will see time in the multiple-receiver sets.

Coughlin said Smith will be on a ”week-to-week” status, but

indicated he won’t plot a definitive timetable for his return until

he begins rehabilitation. Coughlin said no surgery will be

necessary.

”It’s a partial pec and he just has to rehab,” Coughlin said.

”But whatever the basis of it is, he has to go through a process

of healing, so I’m not sure exactly how long.”

The injury occurred during drills Thursday when Smith was

reaching for a pass.

Moving Manningham into Smith’s spot could lead to more

double-coverage for Nicks, an athletic and shifty weapon in the

open field. But adjusting to defenses won’t be the only pressure

the 2009 first-round draft choice will have felt this week. His

alma mater, the University of North Carolina, is under NCAA

investigation, and the school listed his name among five former Tar

Heels who may have given some of the 13 currrent players under

scrutiny $3,300 worth of ”impermissible gifts of cash and jewelry

and impermissible assistance” with transportation after the 2008

season.

”I’m not angry at all,” Nicks said, when asked his thoughts on

North Carolina bringing his name into the investigation. ”That’s

college. I’m in the NFL now, and I’m focusing on football.”

The investigation also involves improper conduct from a tutor

and improper relationships with agents. But the school has stated

that Nicks is not suspected of having any ”inappropriate

relationships with agents, prospective agents, or runners.”

”I’ve got a game this week,” Nicks said as he shook his head

to all further questions about the investigation, and proceeded to

talk about the Cowboys, and Manningham’s upside for this

weekend.

”We know he’s going to step up. We pretty much all know each

other’s routes, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Manningham, third on the team with 25 catches for 385 yards and

three touchdowns, said he looked forward to an increased role.

”I’ve just got to play football,” he said, ”stick to what I

do and don’t try to make the game harder than it is. The good thing

is, we know Dallas and we know what they’re going to run.”

The Giants might be using that starting group for a while. At

least two weeks, according to Coughlin.

”They say a limited amount of time, but not necessarily right

away or this week or next week,” Coughlin said. ”I won’t know

until (Smith) starts rehabbing. He hasn’t had much swelling or

discomfort, so a lot of it in the beginning will probably be

preventative to make sure there’s no further injury, and then to

strengthen and go forward.”

NOTES: T David Diehl (hip and hamstring), FB Madison Hedgecock

(hamstring), C Shaun O’Hara (foot), and KR Darius Reynaud

(hamstring) were ruled out for Sunday along with Smith. T Will

Beatty (foot) is questionable. DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), RB Brandon

Jacobs (illness), and LB Gerris Wilkinson (hand) are probable. …

Coughlin said he’ll wait until gametime to decide whether veteran

Kevin Boothe or rookie Mitch Petrus will start at the left guard

spot left vacant in the offensive line shuffle to compensate for

O’Hara’s and Diehl’s injuries. All signs point to Boothe,

however.