EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants won't have their go-to receiver for the rest of the season, and maybe longer.
An orthopedic surgeon told The Associated Press the surgery requires a very long rehabilitation process, but it is possible that Smith might be ready for training camp in August.
Smith, who set a Giants record with 107 catches last season, was hurt on the opening play of the fourth quarter when he was tackled from behind on a 12-yard reception, his 48th of the season. The game was his first since he partially tore a pectoral muscle during practice Nov. 11.
The Giants (9-4) now will face the Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) in Sunday's showdown for first place in the NFC East with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham as quarterback Eli Manning's prime targets, and Derek Hagan, Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas filling in when the team uses three- or four-receiver packages.
Nicks returned to the lineup Monday after missing three games with a lower leg injury and said he was sore Wednesday. Manningham had to leave the game with a hip injury. Manning called Smith's injury unfortunate and said the other receivers have to step up.
"We have Hakeem back and Mario -- those guys are playing well," Manning said. "Hagan has been here for a month and is playing well, and Michael Clayton. We have numbers now, where we can put guys in different positions, and they can go out there and play well."
The burden will fall on Nicks, who made seven catches for 96 yards against the Vikings. His nine touchdown receptions lead the team.
"I don't feel like it puts more pressure on me," he said. "I just have to rise up to the occasion. Mario Manningham will step up, Derek Hagan will step up. I'm just going to continue to hold it down on my part."
Manningham guaranteed that he would be ready for Sunday, despite missing the second half against the Vikings. He didn't practice Wednesday.
"I'll be all right," he said. "Trust me. I'll be good to go."
"It's almost like every year there is one position which is always hurt on any team," said Hagan, who was cut at the end of training camp. "It was the DBs last year. It's unfortunate, but injuries happen in this game, and you have to have guys who can come in and play right away. Obviously, the team brought me back for a reason, to help this team win, and I got to do what I got to do to get this victory."
Dr. Russell Warren examined Smith on Tuesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery and diagnosed the injury to the fourth-year pro's articular cartilage. No date has been set for the surgery.
Dr. Michael Kelly, the chairman of department of orthopedic surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, said the recovery period from surgery involving articular cartilage can be lengthy because the cartilage has no ability to regenerate itself. Kelly said the articulate cartilage helps cushion the bone.
"If articular cartilage surgery is performed, depending on the surgical procedure itself, the recovery involves limited weight bearing, so an extensive period on crutches, and then limited impact activity, such as running for many months," Kelly said in a telephone interview with The AP. "It depends on what they do, the size and location. It all influences the recovery significantly. No matter how you do it, it takes a while."
Kelly said Smith possibly could be ready for training camp.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press