EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross is starting another season waiting for an injury to heal.
A year ago, a hamstring injury late in training camp caused Ross to miss the first nine games of the season and limited him to four for the season. His right foot is the issue this year, and it has left the former first-round pick doubtful for Sunday’s opener against the Carolina Panthers.
Ross has plantar fasciitis, sustained in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 21. He only returned to practice this week.
While coach Tom Coughlin says the four-year veteran is making progress, he refused to say on Friday whether he would be in the lineup in the first regular-season game in the new $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium.
Ross, who is married to Olympic track gold medalist Sanya Richards, hopes to play.
“In the beginning it was really difficult,” Ross said. “I couldn’t put my heel down, couldn’t plant. But this week, I have been doing a lot, 50 percent the first day, 75 percent the next and the whole thing today, and I felt really good. It is getting better and better. I still have two more days, so don’t count me out.”
The Panthers are predominantly a run-orientated offense, so it might be better for the Giants to give Ross another week to rest. That would get him back in the lineup for Week 2 against Peyton Manning and the pass-heavy Colts in Indianapolis.
If Ross can’t play this week, second-year cornerback Bruce Johnson will get more time in nickel and dime formations.
“It feels good,” said Ross, who had to wear a cast on his foot for about a week after the injury was diagnosed. “I practiced a lot today, jumping, sprinting, everything, and I felt pretty good.”
The injuries the past two seasons have been a concern for the Giants’ first-round draft pick in 2007. The length of the injury last season cost him his starting job, and the one this year also took away the punt returner’s role that he had picked up after Domenik Hixon was hurt in June.
“The first couple of days I was down,” Ross said of the most recent injury. “But talking to the guys, coaches, my family, they picked my spirits up. It is nothing compared to the hamstring. The hamstring, I was sitting here pouting the whole time. With this, I can get out there and practice a little bit.”
Ross said the injury happened in the second quarter against the Steelers. The only indication that he had was the tape on his foot suddenly felt too tight.
“I cut off the tape and that’s when I realized that my heel was a little painful,” Ross said.
Ross wasn’t sure what caused the injury, but he speculated it might have happened when he planted his foot.
An examination revealed a partial tear of the plantar fascia, the flat band of tissue along the bottom of a foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. Besides the cast, Ross now wears orthotics, gets a different tape job and has a cushion placed under his heel.
“As a football player, we play in pain all the time,” Ross said. “If it’s just pain, I will be ready for Week 1. But if it’s still injured and I hurt the team, once again, I can’t make that decision.”
Ross really doesn’t want to wait.
“I have never been a cautious guy,” he said. “I missed all of last year so I am anxious to play. I love the game so if I have to play with a little pain I am willing to do that, as long as I don’t hurt the team.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.