While the status of quarterback Eli Manning likely won't be known until just before game time on Sunday, the New York Giants already know they will be without starting tailback Brandon Jacobs for their home game against the Green Bay Packers.
Jacobs, who suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee during last Sunday's loss at Dallas, has been ruled out for this week, and could miss a few more weeks as well.
That means four-year veteran Derrick Ward, who rushed for a career-best 89 yards on 13 carries in replacing the injured Jacobs last week, will get his first regular-season start. His backup will be the more experienced Reuben Droughns.
Manning, who continues to rehabilitate a right shoulder injury, missed practice Thursday for a second straight day. Coach Tom Coughlin indicated he may wait as long as possible to assess Manning's recovery, and not make a determination until game time.
If Manning cannot play, third-year veteran Jared Lorenzen would make his first career start. And with an inexperienced quarterback, the Giants are likely to run the ball more, and rely on Ward to lead the ground attack.
"Whatever they need me to do," Ward said, "I'm ready for it."
A fourth-year veteran, Ward has logged only 48 carries for 212 yards in his career. His lone touchdown came on a reception, not a run. In 28 appearances, he has played mostly on special teams.
But the Giants seem to have confidence in Ward, who edged ahead of Droughns, a former 1,000-yard rusher acquired from Cleveland in a trade this spring, and feel that he can be a more than adequate fill-in.
Ward, 27, was signed by the Giants off the New York Jets' practice squad in 2004. The former Ottawa (Kans.) College star has played sparingly, but understands that the injury to Jacobs, who succeeded the retired Tiki Barber as the starter, is an opportunity to demonstrate that a back from a small NAIA school can possess big-time skills.
A hard charger with a low-to-the-ground build, Ward lacks Jacobs' long-run ability, but is a physical runner between the tackles.
"I'm just going to be myself," Ward said. "And hope that's good enough."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.