EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Looking back on his first four seasons with the New York Giants, cornerback Prince Amukamara is a bit frustrated.
While there have been accomplishments and steps toward becoming a top defensive back, it’s a period marked by injuries and surgeries.
There was a broken foot in training camp in his rookie season of 2011. That was followed by ankle and hamstring injuries the next year, and he lost half of last season after tearing a biceps.
The only season Amukamara played in all 16 games was 2013, not the way to gain recognition.
It’s one of the reasons the 26-year-old is so focused these days. He understands football careers are short and that if he wants to make a mark, now is the time.
“I definitely feel like I have the potential, but I can’t say that I am elite,” Amukamara said after Monday’s voluntary workout. “Number one, I don’t have the stats to prove it, and two I don’t have the money to prove it. Number three, I don’t have the accomplishments, the Pro Bowls. It does give me satisfaction, knowing that I know I just have to put it on film so other people know.”
Amukamara was making strides last season to becoming one of the league’s top cornerbacks. He was getting almost every tough assignment during the first half of the season and he had a career-high three interceptions until being hurt on Nov. 3 against Indianapolis.
The Giants first-round pick in 2011 had surgery and spent the next six months getting back in shape.
During Monday’s voluntary workout, Amukamara took every play at full speed. He undercut pass routes thrown by Eli Manning and had an interception against Ryan Nassib.
“It seemed that every time Eli was coming toward my side I was taking it personal,” Amukamara said. “I have felt like it has been like that all the OTAs.”
Veteran defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins has seen a more focused Amukamara in recent months.
“Sometimes when you lose it or it gets taken away from you, you get that chance to appreciate how much you love it and enjoy being out there,” Jenkins said. “You want to make sure you are giving it your all and that doesn’t happen again.”
Amukamara also seems to be stepping into a role as a leader among the defensive backs. Safety Antrel Rolle had that job in recent years, but his signing with Chicago has left a void.
Being in his fifth year with the Giants, Amukamara is trying to step into the role. He’s not a very vocal guy, but his work ethic and knowledge have caught the eyes of younger players like rookie safety Landon Collins.
When he is having trouble with a call, Amukamara is there to get him in the right spot.
“People lead in different ways,” Amukamara said. “I remember someone telling me: ‘If you are leading and no one is following, you’re just going for a walk.’ My job is first to be available to lead, which means play all 16 games. You can’t lead from the tub. I would think if I am here all 16 games and taking care of my body, I feel like I would be the right guy to rally the troops.”
Coach Tom Coughlin felt Amukamara was on top of his game last season, and he likes what he is seeing now.
“He has been enticing people to try to throw it over his head because he has broken on the underneath stuff very well,” Coughlin said.
NOTES: The Giants have a three-day mandatory minicamp next week, and Coughlin expects DE Jason Pierre-Paul will be there. The Giants put a franchise tag on him and he has not been at the voluntary workouts. He wants a new long-term contract. … Manning downplayed wearing support sleeves on his knees. ” I’m 34, I think,” he said. “I just like the look; it’s a good style.” … WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz did not take part in the workouts. They worked on the sideline with trainers. … LB Jon Beason (foot/toe) was limited Monday, but said he will be ready for training camp next month. … Second-year WR Corey Washington, who made the team last season after catching four touchdown passes in the preseason, is getting some plays with the first team with Cruz and Beckham out. “I have got to show the coaches that I’m going to keep working and gaining their trust,” said Washington, who played at Newberry College in South Carolina.
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