Toomer will be back on field for Giants

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Playing the Baltimore Ravens will be more than a preseason debut for Amani Toomer.

It will be a chance for the New York Giants second all-time leading receiver to show on Sunday night that he is back from knee surgery for the second time in his 12-year career.

Meanwhile, receiver Plaxico Burress, who has not practiced since Aug. 2, will not play as he continues to struggle with an ankle injury.

Toomer will be limited to about 10-12 plays.

"There hasn't been a day in the last eight or nine months that I haven't tried to do something that has to do with getting me back on the field," said Toomer, who has not played in a game since suffering a partially torn ligament in his left knee on Nov. 5.

Surgery fixed the tear, but the process of getting back on the field has been slow for the receiver who will turn 33-years-old in September.

His recovery involved daily work with team trainers and eventually progressed with him resuming his kung fu workouts to strengthen his leg. There also was yoga to improve his flexibility and eventually diet to take off a couple of post-surgical pounds.

That only got him halfway there. During optional workouts this spring, Toomer jogged while teammates worked. During the June minicamp, he ran plays with the receivers but he did not take part in team workouts.

Since training camp opened at the University at Albany, Toomer has practiced once a day, never taking part in any of the two-a-day workouts.

But has looked good when he has practiced.

In the late practice on Thursday, Toomer ran straight down the field, made a shoulder fake to the inside and blew past the cornerback to haul in a long pass by Eli Manning.

"You can read what he is doing," Manning said. "He makes good decisions on his routes and his timing. If he gets banged at the line he knows to cut his routes shorter to stay within the timing of the plays. He will do the right thing and make big plays for us."

That was something that was missing after Toomer was hurt. The Giants were 6-2 when he went down and they finished 2-6 in their last eight games.

"I knew I helped the team a lot, but I didn't realize they would struggle," said Toomer, who also had knee surgery in his rookie season in 1996.

The person who struggled without Toomer was Manning, who has frequently used No. 81 as his go-to guy. If there is a big third-down play, more often than not he will find Toomer.

Toomer thinks his knowledge of the entire offense and his experience have allowed him to develop a chemistry with Manning.

"You have to do things to make the quarterback comfortable," Toomer said. "When he throws you the ball, you have to make the quarterback feel comfortable that you are going to be in the right place and that's something I've worked on for a while. I take pride in that the quarterback is comfortable throwing me the ball."

Toomer's 561 career receptions are 25 less than the team record held by Tiki Barber, who retired after last season.

Coming out of lunch on Friday, Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was asked if he wanted to go long to Toomer on the first play on Sunday.

He just smiled.

Coach Tom Coughlin has been cautious with Toomer. He held him out of the preseason opener against Carolina last weekend.

"I think I'm just excited to get back on the field," Toomer said. "I don't really think about the first hit, I just want to get back out there."

It's ironic that the Giants are playing the Ravens in Toomer's first game back. The teams met in Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28, 2001. Baltimore won 34-7.

With seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan holding out while he decides whether to play or retire, Toomer is the last Giants player left from the Super Bowl roster.

"I never really think back," Toomer said. "I'm really just concentrating on this game and this year. I think that's when you get in trouble when you start thinking back to much and thinking about the different teams you were on and all that stuff. That's something you think about when you get done playing and I have some years to go."

NOTES: Second-year receiver Sinorice Moss missed his second straight day of practice with a sprained ankle. It is uncertain whether he will play Sunday at Baltimore. "I don't know, we're going to see," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after practice Friday at the University at Albany. "It will be probably right up before we leave, whether we know if he will go or not." The Giants will fly to Baltimore on Saturday night, then return to Albany early Monday morning. Moss played only six games as a rookie because of a leg injury.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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