EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- What's the first thing that comes to Shaun O'Hara's mind when you say the words "ankle" and "Achilles?"
"I say, beat the Cowboys," said the New York Giants center.
Don't look now, but O'Hara has practiced fully for two straight days after playing last Sunday, and appears ready to go Monday night in Dallas. This after months of pain and missing practices to treat the tendinitis and swelling in his leg.
"I'm still kind of holding my breath," O'Hara said. "I don't want to jinx myself but it's feeling pretty good and it seems to be handling the workload."
So is anyone ready to declare that O'Hara has turned the corner?
"He came through the game well," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I'm not ready to make any long-term statements, but he came through and he practiced two days. So he seems to be doing well."
Having O'Hara back this week is important for pass protection. Adam Koets did well filling in at center, but O'Hara was part of an offensive line that recognized the cagey Dallas schemes last season and offered quarterback Eli Manning the protection he needed for 330 passing yards in the win in Dallas.
"[Dallas nose tackle Jay] Ratliff is not only a great pass rusher," said Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, "he's a great run stopper. So to have your starting unit back is obviously a great advantage and certainly in pass protection, just seeing things -- they do a terrific job of moving around and making it difficult. They don't just line up here to here with a defensive tackle and a defensive end, they're moving all over the place. They do a great job, so having a guy who can identify and call out who is where is probably as important as anything that we do in our protection."
Shaun O'Hara spent part of training camp and a week of the regular season in a cast to try to alleviate swelling in the ankle, but a diagnosis of an inflamed bursa and a cortisone shot allowed him to improve enough to play against the Lions.
The Giants had an extra off day due to the schedule leading to a Monday game, and O'Hara was back for a full practice on Thursday.
"It's good having him back," Manning said. "I thought Adam did a great job and filled in well. It's good to have Shaun for his leadership and a veteran guy, and that'll be great playing a 3-4 team with guys moving around. It's good to have him back with the offense."
Dallas may not be having a terrific season, but if the Giants can improve to 5-2 in front of the Cowboys' home crowd, it would make for a particularly happy Monday night in Texas. The role of center might not get a lot of glory, but after the game-winning pass protection the offensive line provided there last season, having O'Hara back is key.
"Shaun has been great," Jacobs said. "He played good last week and that's what we need out of Shaun. Shaun is a great center. He knows exactly what he needs to do."