EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants suffered more than a heartbreaking loss in Philadelphia as the team announced that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks will be out for the next three weeks with swelling in his lower right leg.
Nicks was hit in the leg sometime during the 27-17 loss to the Eagles on Sunday night and is being treated for compartment syndrome, swelling in the lower leg which compresses nerves and blood vessels.
According to the Giants, Nicks underwent a fasciotomy at the Hospital for Special Surgery on Monday afternoon. Compartment syndrome can lead to muscle and nerve damage if not treated immediately, according to the Giants.
"We knew he had a little something last night," head coach Tom Coughlin said of Nicks, who was seen limping on the field but played into the fourth quarter. "I didn't know what it was. He was limping a little bit. [The team doctors] acted like somebody may have kicked him in the lower leg area. He felt as if he could continue."
Coughlin said the medical staff felt the need to "take immediate action" and sent Nicks to the hospital after he arrived to the team facility on Monday morning.
Dr. Victor Khabie, co-chief at the Orthopedics and Spine Institute at
Northern Westchester Hospital, said a fasciotomy is an emergency
procedure to relieve the pressure on nerves and blood vessels.
"If it is not decompressed, there is no oxygen or blood flow
getting to the muscles and the muscles die and you have permanent
damage to the leg muscles, which obviously for an NFL receiver
would be career ending," Khabie said.
Khabie said in a fasciotomy, surgeons cut the fascia, the tight
covering over muscles, to reduce the swelling.
"You know that boxing movie where Rocky's eyes are swollen
and you got to cut the eye to relieve the pressure," he said. "It's kind of like that."
Khabie said how soon Nicks returns depends on the amount of muscle damage suffered and how many compartments had to be cut to relieve the pressure. He said surgeons might have to repeat the procedure in a couple of days to clean out any dead muscle, and that might sideline him for the season.
The Giants (6-4) have lost two straight games and now must find a way to stay in the playoff hunt without their top two wide receivers for most of the next month. New York is also without Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith, who has missed the past two games with a partially torn pectoral which will keep him out for perhaps another two weeks. The Giants' next three games are against the Jaguars, Redskins and Vikings.
Smith said he optimistically is hoping to be ready for the Washington game on Dec. 5 but knows it might be a long shot.
"Guys that have done it before say they have gotten all the way to full strength," Smith said. "I don't know how fast that will be. I'm definitely going to be limited for the rest of this season."
It has been a bad month to be a Giants wide receiver. During this month alone, the team lost Smith, Nicks and Ramses Barden, who was placed on injured reserve last week with ligament damage and a fracture in his ankle. Barden joined rookie wide receiver Victor Cruz, who was placed on the season-ending IR in October.
The Giants are now down to three true wide receivers on the current roster in Mario Manningham, rookie Duke Calhoun and the recently signed Derek Hagan. Hagan will likely become the starter opposite Manningham until Nicks and Smith return.
"I've got to be ready. I have no choice," Hagan said Monday. "I have to be ready, I want to be ready, and I know I'm ready. I've been in this offense. I know what's going on."
Hagan had three catches for 10 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles.
"When you got your top two receivers out, that is always a big blow," quarterback Eli Manning said. "But we learn how to fight through it. Other guys've got to step up and we've got to run the ball and get guys open. I've got to play great football."
Coughlin said pass-catching tight end Travis Beckum is under consideration to be a bigger factor in the passing game. Kick returner/punt returner Darius Reynaud is listed as a receiver and took snaps at the position on the scout team last week. Safety Antrel Rolle has volunteered to play offense as well.
"We are aware of Antrel's athletic skills," Coughlin said. "We can take everything into consideration."
For the second straight season, Coughlin's team is decimated by injuries. In addition to the receivers unit, the Giants' offensive line is battered by injuries.
Starting center Shaun O'Hara has missed three straight games with a foot injury and his return is unknown. Tackle David Diehl missed the past two games with hip and hamstring injuries and might not play this week. And left tackle Shawn Andrews is dealing with a back issue.
Now Manning has lost his best weapon for almost a month. Nicks is tied for third in the NFL with 62 receptions and has 800 yards and nine touchdowns. Manningham is third on the team in receiving with 38 receptions for 500 yards and four touchdowns.
"Moaning doesn't help," Manning said of all the injuries. "You start complaining about it ... it doesn't fix anything. It just makes it worse. You have a positive attitude and say, hey, we got a new guy coming in probably playing receiver and they don't have much film on him so they won't know how to guard him so he will be able to run and get open."
Manning was asked who that "new guy" will be.
"Must be somebody," Manning replied. "I don't know."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus and Ian Begley, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.