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Giants' Ballard questionable, expects to play

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Jake Ballard's right knee is bothering him a bit. Not enough, though, to keep him out of a game this big.

The New York Giants' tight end was listed as questionable Friday for the NFC championship game at San Francisco after having a "little procedure" on his right knee Thursday night and sitting out practice.

"I'm not concerned," said Ballard, who experienced some swelling. "I just saw the doctor a little bit last night and they performed the procedure. I'll be ready to go. They just pulled me out just to rest me for the day."

Neither Ballard nor coach Tom Coughlin would discuss what was done to the knee, but Coughlin said it was "not surgery."

"The knee was a little sore today and I should be ready to go for the game," Ballard said.

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was limited in practice after tweaking an ankle, but said he'll be fine. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) returned to practice, but was limited. No surprise there, though, since he has practiced just once a week since the injury in early December.

Center David Baas missed practice because of a stomach illness, similar to the one that sidelined quarterback Eli Manning for a day earlier this week. He's expected to be fine in time for the game.

Ballard missed the last two games of the regular season after injuring the posterior cruciate ligament in the knee against Washington on Dec. 18, but returned for the postseason. He had one catch for 17 yards at Green Bay, and two for 16 in the opening round against Atlanta.

The second-year tight end from Ohio State had 38 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season.

"The PCL is not going to heal overnight," Ballard said. "It's usually six or seven weeks where you don't feel it anymore, and it's only been about four maybe."

Travis Beckum said he'd be ready to start if Ballard can't, but doesn't anticipate that. In fact, Beckum made light of the procedure, trading his shoulder pads for a scalpel.

"I diagnosed him with a torn ACL, but he'll be back," Beckum said. "I gave him some stuff and he'll be back tomorrow."

Ummm, Travis, what was your major in college?

"Street pharmacy," Beckum said with a smile. "I used a butter knife. He has really thin skin."

For the record, Beckum majored in human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin.

"Yeah, it was emergency surgery last night," Ballard said, smiling. "If I was missing a leg, that's probably what it would take to keep me off the field."

Nicks, who has 13 catches for 280 yards and four touchdowns in the Giants' two playoff games, was hurt while cutting during a route in practice.

"It just kind of gave out on me, but it should be all right, though," he said. "I've got no reason to be concerned about it. It's an important game. I'll put it out of my mind and not even think about it."

Nicks said he'll "and wrap it up real good" and be ready to go.

Defensive ends Justin Tuck (shoulder) and Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee), cornerback Corey Webster (hamstring) and linebacker Mark Herzlich (ankle) were all limited, but listed as probable for the game.

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