EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Veteran Brian Williams, 32, who has played with Minnesota, Jacksonville and Atlanta, was signed by the New York Giants Wednesday to address their urgent needs at the cornerback position.
"He is a veteran who knows how to play," coach Tom Coughlin said of Williams. "He has been a good physical blitzer, and we are in need of someone who can learn quick and go from there."
Williams has played in 128 regular-season games with 99 starts. He has 19 career interceptions. Last season, he played in all 16 games with one start for the Falcons.
The Giants secondary has been in a state of upheaval during the preseason. Starter Terrell Thomas, last year's leading tackler on the team, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered during last weekend's preseason game against the Bears. And first-round pick Prince Amukamara is sidelined with a broken foot.
Ross came to training camp as the somewhat forgotten man among the cornerbacks.
Corey Webster and Thomas were the returning starters and general manager Jerry Reese didn't hesitate to take Amukamara in the first round when the Nebraska cornerback was available with the 19th pick overall.
It left Ross in no man's land. The Giants' first-round pick in 2007 was down on the depth chart and fighting the stigma of being injury-prone the past two seasons. He missed a good part of 2009 with hamstring issues and battled a painful foot injury most of last season.
Three weeks into training camp, though, Ross is no longer an afterthought. With Amukamara and Thomas sidelined, Ross is back in a starting role and anxious to show people what he can do.
"Being out there on the outside and being able to make plays and show the coaches I can make plays, and the fans, the media, it is exciting," said Ross, who has the added motivation of being in the final year of his contract.
Ross said his biggest concern this season is staying healthy. If he does, he has no doubt about his ability to play.
"I am really confident in myself to tell you the truth," Ross said. "I know what I can do. As long as I stay healthy I know that I am fine. Coaches haven't seen me healthy in two years, the fans or you guys. Of course, y'all forget.
"But I know what I can do."
Ross had three interceptions in each of his first two seasons, but has not had one since 2008.
"I think I am a decent player," Ross, 28, said. "They drafted me here for a reason. So, as long as I am healthy, I believe I can be a positive impact on the field."
Ross, who is married to track star and Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards, is taking added precautions to stay healthy. He used to keep stretching to a minimum. His approach is totally different now.
"I have a guy coming in that stretches me, gets the knots out, pretty much everything," Ross said. "I put everything in the basket and am letting it go."
The injury to Thomas also has given opportunities to players like Michael Coe, rookie Darnell Burks and first-year pro Joe Burnett, who had little chance of making the roster at the start of camp.
"My mindset has always been to prepare to play and try to get comfortable doing everything and when you get the opportunity, be ready," said Coe, a former Arkansas Razorback, who is now No. 3 on the depth chart after spending part of last season with the Giants. "You never know the circumstances. You have to have the mindset of trying to absorb as much as you can.
"I am a lot more comfortable in this defense. It's similar to the one I had in college."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press