EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the New York Giants gathered Monday to review Sunday's victory over the Eagles, and coach Tom Coughlin handed out game balls, he had a special message to go with the one he gave cornerback Terrell Thomas.
"Welcome back, Terrell," Coughlin said.
Thomas' story has been well chronicled. He's back from a third reconstructive surgery on the same knee, having missed the past two seasons after tearing his ACL in the preseason. The fact that he's playing at all is a testament to his dedication and worthy of praise. But he played every snap Sunday, and the way he played was exceptional. He was in on 11 tackles, 10 of which were credited as solos. He batted down a pass. And he sacked Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley and forced a fumble just before halftime on a play that began on the Giants 2-yard line. Jacquian Williams' recovery of that fumble prevented the Eagles from scoring and cutting the Giants' lead down to five points.
"He played well," Coughlin said. "That play he made in that particular situation, knocking that ball out when they were in point-blank range, that was a denial of a touchdown, field goal, whatever it might be. And to have that ball recovered the way it was, an effort play like that, was a very good thing."
Thomas has had an interesting year as part of the Giants' ever-shifting personnel groupings in the defensive backfield. He began the year as the slot cornerback in early games against the high-octane passing offenses of the Cowboys and Broncos. He got just one defensive snap in the first game against the Eagles, then started at an outside cornerback spot four days later in Chicago. The Giants have been working to limit the impact the season is having on Thomas' rebuilt knee while also moving him and others around to take advantage of favorable matchups depending on the opponent.
"I think [trainer] Ronnie Barnes is doing a great job of managing me, along with the coaching staff, allowing me to rest during the week and taking a game off here and there," Thomas said. "I'm about 13 months post-surgery. I think with this coming weekend off, the rest of the season should be good for me. I think I'm at a turning point with my knee that it's about adjusting, getting my legs under me and knowing what to expect week in and week out."
As that comfort level improves, it appears Thomas will be an asset at the cornerback position, where Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride have been starting and Corey Webster continues to work back in after missing significant time with a groin injury. The Giants have depth there, and Thomas says that allows everyone to showcase their abilities and help in various ways.