Coughlin Plays Down Injury, Plays Up Dallas Game

Giant coach ignores leg pain and focuses on showdown on top spot for NFC East

By TOM CANAVAN
|  Monday, Dec 26, 2011  |  Updated 5:46 PM EDT
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The 65-year-old Giants coach didn't want to discuss his leg injury.

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Walking into his news conference to kick off an NFC East showdown week with the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Coughlin couldn't hide the injury.

There was a noticeable limp in his left leg, one that seemingly will bother the 65-year-old Giants coach for weeks and might require medical intervention down the road.

Coughlin didn't care. He wasn't going to discuss the extent of the injury sustained in Saturday's game with the Jets when he was slammed into by D.J Ware after the Giants running back was hit out of bounds.

All that was important was that the Giants (8-7) are playing Dallas (8-7) Sunday night at MetLife Stadium for the NFC East title and a playoff berth. The loser goes home.

"Never better. I may not be able to run for a while," Coughlin said of his health, adding later that he doesn't discuss injuries.

Still, Coughlin had some fun. When asked about Ware, he joked Ware was no longer with the team.

He blamed himself for not paying attention and taking his eye off the play, even though he admitted the late push that resulted in a penalty came 10 yards out of bounds. He even noted he was in for treatment Sunday, just to check up on his players who were hurt in Saturday's 29-14 win that gave the Giants bragging right over Rex Ryan and the brash Jets, the team that co-owns the stadium where they play.

The man who also led the Giants to a Super Bowl title in 2008 and missed the playoffs the past two seasons added he has no intention of coaching from the press box Sunday night. He will be on the field with his players in this all-or-nothing game.

"This is a long and storied rivalry, no doubt about it," Coughlin said of the Giants-Cowboys series. "There have been some great, great games between the two franchises. The one a couple of weeks ago was an outstanding game and example of that. We prepare ourselves for just that type of high intensity, outstanding, high level of performance on both sides."

The Giants rallied from a 12-point deficit in the final 5:41 to beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Dec. 11. However, Coughlin reminded his team Monday that Dallas beat the Giants in the Meadowlands last season after losing in Texas.

Defensive end Dave Tollefson said Coughlin has been the one person the players can count on in what has been an inconsistent year.

The fourth-quarter injury on Saturday was yet another example.

Player after player was amazed at Coughlin's toughness after taking the hit, which looked nasty. Trainers forced him to go to the bench to be examined, but he fought them all the way and quickly limped back to his coaching position along the sideline.

"You know his actions, obviously, Saturday was a great example to the public," Tollefson said. "He would never ask us to do anything that he himself would (not) be willing to do, though he is twice the age of our youngest guy. Seriously, he means what he says and he says a lot of things that he does say, there is conviction in his voice. So you can really tell he means it."

And that he led to loyalty toward a coach who let his players know where they stand.

"You don't want to let him down because he is willing to do anything he can to not let us down," Tollefson said.

Coughlin's message to the team Monday was simple: Forget about the win over the Jets. If you want to get into the postseason, win on Sunday.

"We are all all-in," said defensive captain Justin Tuck, who seemingly shook off all his injuries and played his best game of the season against the Jets. "Coach Coughlin is the same as all of us. I know that leg is banged up a little bit, but he wasn't showing any ill effects today and came in excited about the opportunity that we have this week."

Outspoken safety Antrel Rolle went home to Miami for Christmas, and texted his coach to see how he was feeling Sunday.

"Some of our toughness definitely rubbed off on him," Rolle quipped before getting serious. "He is a tough guy. He kept it going. If our coach is strong enough to go out there and fight and keep it going and hang through a situation like that, we're younger. Why can't we do it?" That's the mentality I have."

Some of the players could not help but tease Coughlin a little bit. One of the things he always says to them is: no toughness, no championship."

The coach heard that a couple of times after being hurt.

His age also was a target.

"I don't think he has taken a hit like that since World War II," Tollefson said of Coughlin, who was born a year after the hostilities ended. "For him to bounce back is impressive."

He'll tape it up if he has to," added guard Chris Snee, the coach's son-in-law. "It didn't look very good but I guess it could have been a lot worse."

NOTES: Coughlin hopes to have WR Mario Manningham (knee) back for the regular-season finale. ...DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle) is a little more iffy. ... Rolle, CB Corey Webster and DE Jason Pierre-Paul all played over 100 plays against the Jets.

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