With Rivers doubtful, Boley poised to start

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Linebacker Michael Boley had started 39 of the 41 games he'd played in since joining the Giants prior to the 2009 season.

But on opening night 2012, with the Giants celebrating their Super Bowl championship and playing in front of a national TV audience, Boley had to wait his turn to get on the field.

After Boley missed much of the preseason with a hamstring injury, coach Tom Coughlin elected to go with free-agent acquisition Keith Rivers as the starter at weakside linebacker against the Cowboys. But Boley almost certainly will be back with the first team when the Giants take on the Buccaneers Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

"Competitors don’t like to leave the field, and I’m one of those guys," Boley said Friday. "So I’m looking forward to being out there for a while."

The reason for the switch back is twofold. First of all, Boley is now 100 percent healthy -- he said Friday that he is fully past the hamstring injury that hampered him in training camp. And Boley, one of the Giants' leaders on defense the past three seasons, was likely to regain his starting job once that happened anyway.

But in addition to that, Rivers is now dealing with a hamstring injury of his own, suffered against the Cowboys, and was listed Friday as doubtful for Sunday's game.

"I kind of defer all injuries to the coaching staff," Rivers said Friday. "I’ve been able to practice, so we’ll see what happens."

Rivers has practiced on a limited basis the past three days, and had sounded optimistic about playing against the Bucs. When asked a follow-up question Friday -- has he been hampered by the injury? -- Rivers declined to elaborate. "I’ve been able to practice," Rivers said. "It’s not in my hands. So we’ll see what happens."

Boley actually played more snaps (37) than Rivers (24) against the Cowboys. But both made key contributions in the game. Boley had an interception, which he almost returned for a touchdown, while Rivers had seven tackles -- second on the team behind Antrel Rolle.

The Giants are fortunate to have two players of this caliber at the weakside linebacker position.

But it looks like they'll only have one available for Sunday afternoon.