Tuck might miss Giants' opener if sore neck doesn't improve

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The banged-up New York Giants defense has another injury to worry about, and it involves two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck.

The Giants' defensive captain didn't practice Thursday because of a sore neck, and he indicated he won't play in Sunday's season opener at Washington unless it improves.

"I am concerned, but I am not panicked," Tuck said. "Like I said, it has not healed as fast as I wanted to. I am not panicked by it. It is getting better, just not as fast as I want it to."

Tuck, who was limited in practice Wednesday, suffered a stinger during an Aug. 29 preseason game against the New York Jets. While the injury feels better, Tuck still has some localized pain.

"I have played through more pain," he said. "It's kind of eerie when you are talking about your neck."

Tuck has talked to Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka about dealing with a neck injury. Kiwanuka missed most of last season with a herniated cervical disk.

Tuck insists his injury isn't as bad as Kiwanuka's, but he doesn't want to risk his season to play in the opener.

"But if I am ready to play, I am going to strap it on and play," he said.

There are times that the medical personnel will tell a player that he can play because it won't make the injury worse. Tuck said that's not true in his situation.

"I have played through a lot of stuff, hopefully, I can play through this one," said Tuck, who played with a torn labrum against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009.

Kiwanuka advised Tuck to be cautious.

"I tell everybody that has a neck issue, better safe than sorry," Kiwanuka said. "One of the best things that helped me out was that as soon as I felt symptoms, I had it checked out immediately. Otherwise, I'd be in a very different predicament right now. I think erring on the side of caution is a must in that situation."

Tuck said he doesn't need a lot of practice time to be ready to play, noting he has been involved in all the walkthroughs, the team meetings and knows the Redskins well from playing them twice per season throughout his career.

The Giants already have lost cornerback Terrell Thomas and middle linebacker Jonathan Goff to season-ending knee injuries, and defensive tackle Marvin Austin, their second-round draft pick, is out with a torn pectoral muscle.

Fellow two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora is rehabilitating his knee after arthroscopic surgery and will not play in the opener. First-round draft pick Prince Amukamara, a cornerback, is out with a broken foot.

Coordinator Perry Fewell insisted his defense wouldn't be limited by the injuries. He admitted he has modified some things in the game plan because of Goff's injury, but he noted the next player on the depth chart has to step up and do the job.

At middle linebacker, that would be rookie Greg Jones. If Tuck can't go, the Giants could either switch Kiwanuka from linebacker to end, start Chris Canty at end instead of tackle or simply go with veteran Dave Tollefson at end.

"We're ready," Fewell said. "We're going down there to win a football game Sunday, and we're not crying. We're locked. We're loaded. This is a good challenge for us. We'll be ready to play football."

Fewell said Tuck has been getting better every day.

"If he plays," Fewell said, "it will be a bonus for us."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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