Giants' Hixon out for year; turf to blame?

Domenik Hixon grabs his right knee after collapsing to the turf on Tuesday. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants wide receiver and return specialist Domenik Hixon is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the team announced Wednesday.

Hixon injured his knee when he tried to make a cut and collapsed untouched on a punt return during the team's first practice at the new Meadowlands stadium on Tuesday. Initially the Giants believed Hixon had hyperextended the knee when his foot caught in the new FieldTurf. Later in the day, Hixon underwent an exam and MRI that revealed the torn ACL.

According to the team, Hixon will undergo surgery in two to three weeks.

Both head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese backed away on Wednesday from comments Coughlin had made, implying that the turf had caused the injury.

"It just happened, just a freak thing that happens sometimes in sports and we have to deal with it," Reese said during an afternoon practice at the Giants' training facility. "I was looking right at him, and it didn't look like his foot got caught. It looked like he was kind of weaving a little bit and his knee just buckled a little bit. It can happen right here on this grass field."

Defensive end Justin Tuck said the turf was soft and the players had to get accustomed to it. Coughlin also said on Wednesday, before he learned of the severity of Hixon's injury, that the team had questions about the turf.

It's safe to say that a major injury in the Giants' first practice at the new stadium was enough to cause additional concern.

"Listen, you got to go over there and go on it before you can make some judgments about it," Coughlin said after the morning practice on Wednesday.

"We will be better served now because of the shoes that we recommend. I said he got his foot stuck in there. [But] you can see on tape he is turning a little bit and he does have a little hyperextended kind of thing. We are aware of it [the softness of the turf] and we are continuing to work with it and are asking the turf people to take another look at the field and some of the thoughts we had about shoes and stuff."

When asked if the turf conditions are such because it is new, Coughlin answered, "Yeah, just because it's new."

Chip Namias, a spokesman for FieldTurf, said workers were on the field on Wednesday fixing seams. Namias said that job will be completed by Thursday, and that FieldTurf had been told by the Giants that Hixon's injury was not related to the surface. Reese also told reporters Hixon was nowhere near the seams when he was hurt.

Namias said it usually takes a few weeks for a field to mold. "When first installed, if it is not actively used, it can be soft," he said.

The New York Jets held their first practice on the turf on Wednesday, and while no one was injured, players said it felt softer than the surface in the old Giants Stadium.

"It's new turf -- it takes awhile for this stuff to harden up and mat down," linebacker Bart Scott told ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus. "There's always going to be loose rubber until you run over it a couple times, have some soccer games in here, some high school games to help mat this thing down. But you just have to make the adjustment. Early on you may have to go with shorter spikes and then as it hardens up you can go with longer spikes.

"But I think it's still top-notch; it's soft, it's level, there's no divots, there's no seams -- you just have to break it in."

Coughlin said Hixon was wearing shoes that had been recommended for use on FieldTurf.

Hixon, a fifth-year pro, was the Giants' return specialist. Reese mentioned Mario Manningham and Aaron Ross as potential replacements for Hixon on punts. The general manager also said he would consider trade possibilities.

The Giants have used the likes of Sinorice Moss and Antrel Rolle during offseason workouts on punt returns. And they have rookie safety Chad Jones as an option as well.

"Injuries are part of the game," Reese said. "Somebody gets injured, we expect someone to step up. We have some guys who can step up in that spot. A guy who comes to mind right away is Manningham. He has been doing some returns for us. We have kick returners. My concern is at punt returner right now. Aaron Ross was a punt returner in college."

And with Hixon out, another receiver such as second-year pro Ramses Barden will have a chance to climb the depth chart.

"It could have happened anywhere," Reese said of Hixon's injury. "I just went over there [to the stadium] and looked at the field again and we talked about some things that maybe need to be changed in respect to the field. We are working on that. We hope to have all the kinks out before we get on it again ... I am sure it has to settle, like all new fields have to settle, but those are things that we think will get worked out."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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