The biggest change for Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw -- at least the one that everyone wants to discuss -- is the absence of his dear friend and backfield partner Brandon Jacobs. But the tangible difference for Bradshaw this season has nothing to do with whom he pals around with off the field.
The fact is, Bradshaw’s surgically repaired feet have prevented him from practicing for an entire week over the last few seasons. Typically, in an effort to keep his feet fresh for Sunday, Bradshaw would sit on Wednesdays and Fridays and suit up on Thursdays.
It’s a schedule that seemed to work until last season, when Bradshaw missed four games and averaged only 3.9 yards per carry.
Coach Tom Coughlin admits the strategy wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t think it limited Bradshaw too much.
“You know, not a lot, but occasionally,” Coughlin said when asked if he noticed any shortcomings. “Maybe a little bit here, a little bit there, didn’t quite see it the way you saw it, kind of stuff."
Whether or not Bradshaw was encumbered by his once-a-week practice schedule is debatable, but the good news is it might not be an issue this season.
After receiving stem cell injections to promote the healing process in his right foot, Bradshaw has been “Mr. Perfect Attendance” through the early stages of camp, and Coughlin believes that will give the six-year veteran an edge in 2012.
“Obviously the opportunity for him to practice, I think it’s going to make a big difference for him," Coughlin said. "If we can, you know, get through this period and him being here every practice and him focusing every practice, being able to go through things full speed.”
Since he’s no longer in as much pain, Bradshaw says he hasn’t been on any medication and has been able to focus on strengthening his legs and ankles.
Another difference for Bradshaw is going from the “little brother” role to the “big brother.” It’s not as if Bradshaw was leaning on Jacobs to teach him the finer points of running the football, but suddenly the 26 year old is a senior member of a backfield that includes second-year back Da’Rel Scott and rookie first-round pick David Wilson.
Coughlin couldn’t say whether or not he’s seen Bradshaw embrace that leadership role, but it’s clear Wilson could learn a lot from him.
“He kind of does his own thing, juking and doing a lot of different things, putting a lot of torque on his ankles and knees,” Bradshaw said of Wilson. "So we’re trying to teach him how to be a professional and hold back on some of those things. I’m just trying to bring him along with the information we learn and just different things how we learned it as rookies and coming up as young guys.”
Wth a renewed focus on the running game, Bradshaw knows he has to worry about his growth as well. The biggest development for Bradshaw -- and the Giants ground game as a whole -- is a renewed sense of pride. The team finished 32nd in the NFL in rushing last season and Bradshaw insists this isn’t something he’ll tolerate for another season.
“There’s something to prove for us as a running-back group,” Bradshaw said. “We love it as a team. We love to prove everybody wrong, and that’s kind of the attitude we take offensively.”
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