By Ernie Palladino
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Victor Cruz and his bruised heel appeared at Giants practice Tuesday in a walking boot and crutches.

Justin Tuck is nursing a slightly sprained hamstring. Center David Baas is week to week, and that might cause a shuffling of the line if the coaching staff is at all leery of Jim Cordle’s ability to handle a starting role. And despite two 20-yard catches from Hakeem Nicks, the Giants still haven’t seen the breakaway factor that made Nicks such a threat before 2012.

Given the look of their defense and the relative inability to generate consistent offense last week against the Colts, the Giants could use a bit of good news in the Jets game Saturday. And if it takes Terrell Thomas to hand them those fair tidings, then all the better.

Thomas, coming back from his third torn ACL, the second straight since training camp in 2011, could see action Saturday in the next step to his long and winding road back to the active roster. He’s off the Physically Unable to Perform list, and he has practiced at full speed even though the staff decided to leave him out of the Colts game.

Saturday, he’ll likely be in there for the first time since the second game of the 2011 preseason, when he ripped that right ACL against the Bears. For a guy like Thomas, his beliefs are deeply-seated in a power higher than Tom Coughlin and Perry Fewell combined. It will represent a new beginning, a resurrection of sorts in a professional career twice torn apart by a single, fragile ligament.

Given the performance of the secondary against Andrew Luck, a successful first outing would do wonders for the staff’s peace of mind as well as Thomas’. With Aaron Ross showing no indication that his year’s sabbatical with Jacksonville did nothing to restore him to first-round form, and Jayron Hosely getting beat for a touchdown, the nickel package and the roster depth behind Prince Amukamara has certainly become a major question mark.

Sure, one can chalk up Reggie Wayne’s touchdown against Ross as freakish. It isn’t every day that a cornerback lays out, pops the ball up toward the end zone and then has the receiver bump it up yet again and come down with it for six points. But the fact is, Luck’s underthrown ball should have been intercepted. Ross, playing as the left-side starter in the absence of Corey Webster that night, was in perfect position, and he failed to finish the play.

Even if he had made the interception, it is clear the Giants need a big hitter in the back. With the linebacking corps looking like a collection of “guys,” as Bill Parcells termed the mediocrities of his squads, and Antrel Rolle still a question mark for the opener in Dallas, seeing a spark from the old Thomas — who led the team in tackles, interceptions and pass breakups in 2009 and 2010 — would be a welcome sight.

He’ll probably never be a starter again. But as a fifth defensive back, playing the slot receiver or even playing in the box in the three-safety alignment, Thomas could again become a productive member of the secondary.

If last week’s practice offered any hints, he’s ready. The staff put him up against Cruz and proved an equal match. Enough to impress the wide receiver, anyway.

“If you didn’t know he had surgery, you couldn’t tell,” Cruz said. “He still has the same competitive edge out there. He’s not tentative at all.”

Thomas said he’s not tentative on the knee at all. It is important to note that it was not the knee problem that put him on the PUP in the first place. It was his hamstring, strained from overtraining.

“I’m not hesitant to put my knee on the ground,” Thomas said last week. “My knee’s not swollen up, it’s not hurting. That’s the biggest thing.”

If he can make a few people start hurting, starting with some Jets receivers Saturday, he’ll be on his way.

And the Giants’ secondary will be better for it.

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