EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Rashad Jennings has had enough of being away from his New York Giants’ teammates on Sundays.
”It’s not fun, sitting on my couch with my dog, yelling at the TV,” said Jennings, the Giants’ leading rusher who has missed the last four games, all losses, with a sprained knee. ”This is my livelihood. This is my job. I’m just glad to be back.”
Jennings, upgraded to probable Friday, will likely start at running back, had a fine start to his Giants career, rushing 396 yards and two touchdowns in four games, including a 176-yard performance against Houston in the Giants’ first win of the season.
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Then Jennings, signed as a free agent from the Oakland Raiders in the offseason, hurt the knee, sending him to the inactive list. It also sent the Giants’ rushing game to the depths of the league, with rookie Andre Williams unable to pick up the slack in Jennings’ absence.
”To me, that’s where the NFL has always been,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin. ”It’s all starts with the run. I’m an old dinosaur, but that’s what I believe. We have to be able to run it a little. That’s our big issue. We have to run it better.”
Maybe that begins with the return of Jennings on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
”He hasn’t played in a while, so I can’t say how much he can give us,” Coughlin said of Jennings. ”He knows his limitations and knows his own body. We trust him. At this point, we need a win.”
Jennings doesn’t want to put any further stress on himself to come back and resurrect the team’s rushing attack.
”Pressure can be a good thing for some and a negative to others,” Jennings said. ”It depends on your prospective. I am a football player. This is what I do. We don’t have time to sit and wonder about what’s happened. We have to go.
”It feels good to be back on the field. If I’m out there, I’m out there with no hesitation or reservation. I’m going to go.”
While the Giants feel the need to establish the run, they also know they cannot afford another game like last Sunday against Seattle. The defending Super Bowl champs ran amok over the Giants for a franchise-record 350 yards on the ground, the most in the NFL this season. Now the Giants face the 49ers, who average 122 yards per game, fourth in the NFC.
”This is a very good running team,” Coughlin said. ”We have to make sure everything is ready to face the read-option, the base runs. If you don’t stop the run, you’re not going to win.”
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul recognizes that.
”It’s going to be a big challenge for us,” said Pierre-Paul, whose 49 tackles rank third on the team. ”We have to stop the run. We need to make plays. If you make big plays, that’s how you win games.”
Pierre-Paul said he can’t get caught up in the Giants’ dismal 3-6 record and four-game losing streak.
”We all have to just go out and play ball,” Pierre-Paul said. ”We have seven games left. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we can win games. We’ve put ourselves in this predicament. Now we have to take ourselves out of the situations we’re in.
”Last week was just terrible. We should have won more games. We had some close battles that we lost. But we believe we can win this game. We’ll take care of things. Just wait until Sunday. You’ll see.”
Both Jennings and Pierre-Paul can’t fathom being in last place in the NFC East. The Giants started last season 0-6 and finished 7-9.
”The crazy thing is that we know we have talent, if we just put it together,” Pierre-Paul said. ”No one wants to keep losing. We have pride.”
Added Jennings: ”We have a lot of talent in this room. We know that there’s an element of frustration now. We have to remind ourselves that we’re making self-inflicting wounds, penalties, turnovers. That’s what is killing us.”
NOTES: Three players are out for Sunday’s game: DT Cullen Jenkins (calf), RB Peyton Hillis (concussion) and LB Jacquian Williams (concussion). . OG Geoff Schwartz, listed on the team’s injured reserve list/designated for return, practiced all week and said he felt ready to see action. But the team did not make a roster move involving Schwartz on Friday. . Coughlin was nominated for the fourth annual Salute to Service Award presented by the USAA, the NFL’s official military appreciation sponsor. The winner will be announced during the annual ”NFL Honors” show the night before the Super Bowl.
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