Prince wants to play starting role

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Giants' first-round draft pick from a year ago made very little impact during the team's championship season of 2011.

But he plans to make a big splash in 2012.

"I still have a job to win, and that’s my mentality -- just to come in and be one of the starting cornerbacks," said Prince Amukamara on Thursday, following the final practice of the Giants' three-day minicamp.

The Giants had high expectations for Amukamara when they selected him 19th overall out of Nebraska last April. But by August, he had suffered a broken left foot, which kept him out of action until late November. Even after he returned, his impact was relatively minimal.

In fact, Amukamara is still making his way back from the injury. He was still under the team doctors' care until the second practice of minicamp this week, according to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

"He was getting his feet wet again," said Fewell. "We didn’t try to push him. I think he only took 50 percent of the reps if that. We kind of let him ease back into playing."

Head coach Tom Coughlin had some nice things to say about Amukamara on Wednesday. "Prince is making progress," Coughlin said. "They are letting him go, up to a point, and he is out there competing.

"It is a whole different year for him, really. Since he has had that experience and a lot of that is behind him. He is doing a good job. Hopefully he is going to continue."

Can he in fact crack the starting lineup? Well, that will in part depend on the progress of fellow cornerback Terrell Thomas, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

Thomas should also be ready to practice fully by the time training camp opens in late July. He and Amukamara will likely be the ones battling it out for the starting spot opposite Corey Webster.

But the truth is, the Giants will need more than two solid cornerbacks to be successful in defending against the passing game next season, and with Aaron Ross having departed via free agency, both Thomas and Amukamara will be slated for important roles.

"I feel comfortable, I feel like my old self," said Amukamara. "My burst isn’t where I want it to be, but I’m glad that we have a couple of weeks off, just so I can get that down."

Fewell agrees that next few weeks, leading up to training camp, will be important for the second-year player. "Prince has to get himself into great shape physically," Fewell said. "I think mentally, he was into it in the classroom, but Prince needs to work physically and training camp will be a big deal for Prince."

"If he gets himself in position where he is comfortable and knows what he is doing, we have seen that other aspect –- the physical part of the play," Coughlin said. “As a collegiate player, that is what he was. He was a physical player –- he was a corner."

That's what the Giants hope to see in 2012.