EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Marvin Austin is dying to play in a real football game.
Can you blame him? It's been almost three years since his last one.
The 23-year-old defensive tackle may finally get his chance on Sunday, when the Giants take on the Buccaneers.
"I’m preparing as if I am (going to play)," Austin said Friday. "When the time comes for coach Coughlin to make the decision, either way I’ll be prepared. I’ll be prepared to be out there helping my guys see whatever I see if I’m not active. If I’m active, I’m going to be out there running around, acting a fool out there. A good fool, that is."
It's been a long, strange trip for Austin since his junior year at the University of North Carolina, which culminated in a 19-17 loss to Pittsburgh in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on the day after Christmas, 2009.
He was suspended for his entire senior season at UNC after receiving improper benefits from an agent. The Giants gambled on him with their second-round draft pick in 2011, but he missed all of his rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle. And he missed much of this preseason and the Giants' Week 1 loss to the Cowboys with a back injury.
But Austin is listed as probable for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. Now he just has to wait and see if he makes the active roster.
Coughlin wasn't tipping his hand on Friday. "He’s missed a lot of time," Coughlin said. "So I think he’s gradually gonna get back into it -- and this was a good starting point for him, to be out here, practicing, so he could be evaluated afterwards by the medical people."
"It’s been extremely tough," Austin said, of waiting so long to play in a meaningful game again. "I try to be optimistic and stay positive. I have no reason to be mad; I’m on the New York football Giants.
"Sitting out was hard, but as I say, it’s all going to be worth the wait when I get my chance to go out there and play."
Austin could provide some much-needed depth at defensive tackle. The only other DT the Giants used against the Cowboys, besides starters Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard, was rookie Markus Kuhn -- the team's seventh-round draft pick, who only started 15 games in college at NC State.
The Giants obviously saw a lot of potential in Austin, drafting him so high despite his college suspension. Austin hopes to deliver on that promise, and prove them right.
"I don’t need to be heard, I just need to go out there and be seen. That’s all that matters," Austin said. "That’s what this league is all about. You don’t have to be heard, you don’t have to talk, you just have to go out there and play. If you go out there and perform, trust me, there’s enough cameras out there to catch everything you are doing."