By Paul Dottino
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The longer you stay around a business, the more you realize that anything can happen. And it did Wednesday.

All visible signs pointed to Steve Smith re-signing with the Giants, especially after a two-day visit to the Timex Center. Coach Tom Coughlin certainly seemed optimistic even though he warned Smith would need more time to rehab his surgically-repaired knee – although he insisted he didn’t think Smith would have to sit out the season.

Then, several hours later – BANG!

Word came out of Philadelphia that Smith had signed a one-year deal with the rival Eagles, who he said were pursuing him for a while.

The Giants deferred comment but Smith said it was clear the Eagles wanted him more than his old team from a business standpoint (read this as contract terms). He also suggested he would return to the field quicker than Coughlin had suggested.

In addition, Smith hinted the Eagles were more eager to talk about a multiyear deal during the season whereas he said the Giants were going to take a wait-and-see approach until after the season had he agreed to their one-year offer.

Make no mistake about it, Smith was a very important part of the Giants’ offense and developed a very strong connection with quarterback Eli Manning. Since Super Bowl XLII, Manning has lost – among others – Smith, Plaxico Burress and Kevin Boss. So much for that clutch passing attack.

There’s no doubt the Giants wanted a healthy Smith to resume his pairing with Manning. None at all. And nobody is foolish enough to say the Giants are better off without Smith. They are not. But this is a receiver who is coming off very serious knee surgery and has decided he’s getting back on the field faster than the Giants’ doctors would recommend (for his own safety).

So the questions GM Jerry Reese had to answer, given his salary-cap contraints, were: How much of the original Smith will be seen on the field? And what are the chances he’ll be able remain in the lineup for the remaining of the season once he takes that first snap?

The Giants must not have felt too good about those answers, otherwise, there’s no logical explanation for Smith landing down the Turnpike.

Did they make a mistake? It might take the entire season to decide.

OSI’S SAGA: Osi Umenyiora looked spry running through pass rushing drills with the trainers and will receive a second opinion on his knee today in Atlanta. The hope is he will be cleared to play (with a limited practice schedule) this season. At this point, it’s expected he will return to the Giants, who have shown “no intention” of trading him, said a source close to the situation.

NOTES: WR Devin Thomas (finger) practiced and looked good. … DT Marvin Austin (hip) also returned to work as did OT James Brewer (leg). … TE Travis Beckum (hamstring) did not practice, so Bear Pascoe and Jake Ballard handled the double-tight end sets. … The last practice of the week is Thursday, given Friday’s travel day for Saturday’s preseason opener at Carolina.

Follow Paul’s updates from Big Blue training camp @GiantsWFAN

Well, did the Giants make a mistake with Smith? Sound off below…


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