Justin Tuck plans to play this week

Barring a setback in practice this week, New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck expects to play on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Tuck told reporters that he plans to practice on Wednesday, and if he makes it through the week without tweaking his neck and groin injuries, he is likely to be out there on Sunday.

"Hopefully I will be," Tuck said Tuesday after reading to students at a Manhattan elementary school. "It's feeling better, but I haven't had the opportunity to actually go out there and perform on the football field. You just want to be careful and not have setbacks. If I could go into the game feeling like I do right now, then yes, I'd probably play."

Tuck has missed the Giants' past three games and played in just two of the team's first six due to lingering neck and groin injuries. He's recorded six tackles and 1.5 sacks so far in 2011.

He may have been able to come back earlier, but Tuck elected to sit out through the Giants' Week 7 bye because he didn't want to suffer a setback. The 28-year-old Tuck played in the Giants' wins over St. Louis and Philadelphia but sat out portions of the Eagles game in Week 3. He has not played since.

Tuck adamantly guaranteed that he'd be back for the Dolphins game after the Giants' win over the Bills on Oct. 16. The next day, he claimed on a radio appearance that he was joking around.

He took the middle road during his appearance at PS 019 in Manhattan.

"(It's) Little sore, but I feel pretty good now," he said.

Tuck's return would help out a surging Giants' defensive line, which features Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Dave Tollefson.

Tuck said on Tuesday that he doesn't want his return to "throw a monkey wrench" into the Giants' game plans.

"I'm just gonna try to stay out the way. I say that seriously. We've had a lot of success, especially rushing the passer. The last thing I want to do is come back and they think they need to throw me into situations," Tuck said.

He later added: "You gotta hopefully not try to reinvent the wheel."

By and large, the Giants' defense has held its own despite injuries to key players, such as starting cornerback Terrell Thomas and starting middle linebacker Jonathan Goff. The Giants have been very successful at pressuring the quarterback.

Both Pierre-Paul (7.5 sacks) and Umenyiora (5 sacks) rank in the top 10 in the NFL in
sacks. As a team, the Giants are tied for the NFL lead with 21 sacks. If he's healthy and playing to his standards, Tuck should make it more difficult for Giants opponents to protect the passer.

"You look out on the field and you see the numbers lined up, you've got to pick your poison," Mathias Kiwanuka said on Monday. "Do you double 72 or do you double 71? Is it 91? Whoever's out there on the field poses a big problem for the offense."

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week that Pierre-Paul will likely play 10-15 fewer snaps when Tuck returns. Fewell and the Giants staff believe Pierre-Paul tires late in games. Kiwanuka's snaps may decrease as well.

Ian Begley is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.