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In short week, Giants short-handed

Turns out, the short work week left the Giants pretty weak at several positions.

The team will be without starters Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw, David Diehl and Domenik Hixon against Carolina on Thursday.

Tom Coughlin seemed to sense that injuries would be an issue when talking to reporters earlier this week. Asked about the physical challenges of playing on Thursday, Coughlin expressed hope -- but not confidence -- that his veterans would be able to bounce back after just three days between games.

"It’s challenging, particularly for the people that played an awful lot of snaps (last Sunday) and are sore or whatever," the coach said.

The short week has also been tough on the healthy Giants. The team held practice on Tuesday -- its only full practice of the week -- and a walk-through on Wednesday before heading to Charlotte.

"It’s definitely a challenge," Victor Cruz said. "But I think, mentally, we’ve had a good week so far and I think we put a lot of good things in place and I think we’re ready to go."

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Giants coaches started preparing for Carolina in the spring. They also took a look at tape of the Panthers throughout the summer, knowing they wouldn't have much time during the season.

"We ... tried to put together some thoughts, preparation (and) plans about how to defend this football team," Fewell said.

No matter what happens on Thursday night, it sounds as if Coughlin doesn't want to hear anyone on the Giants use the short week as an excuse.

"I’m not going there," he said when asked if playing Thursday was bad for the NFL. "We’re playing the Carolina Panthers Thursday night and we’re trying to get ourselves ready to go."

MARVIN HOPES TO SEE THE FIELD VS. CAROLINA: Marvin Austin was healthy enough to play this past Sunday, but he didn't get on the field in the Giants' win over Tampa. And he seemed a little disappointed about it.

"You got on the body armor, but you can’t go into battle," Austin said of not being able to play. "It’s tough, but the one thing I do know is it’ll happen sooner or later and that’s all I can do is be prepared for my opportunity."

Austin hasn't played in a live football game in nearly three years.

The 23-year-old defensive tackle 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.

Fewell said he had enough confidence to use Austin if he needed him against the Bucs.

QUINN CONFIDENT IN RANDLE: With Hixon ruled out for Thursday's game, Ruben Randle is a candidate to return punts for the Giants. Special teams coach Tom Quinn said Jernel Jernigan and Jayron Hosley also may step in at punt returner in place of Hixon.

Quinn was pleased with the job Randle did against Tampa, noting that his numbers (two returns for 11 yards) would have been better if a 45-yard return hadn't been called back on a hold.

"He did some good things," Quinn said.