EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After receiving the news that fellow running back David Wilson was going to be sidelined with a neck injury, the rest of the New York Giants backfield have rallied around their injured teammate.
"When I signed here, I knew we had a chance to be a force in the backfield," said Rashad Jennings, signed as a free agent in the offseason from Oakland.
"We have a good bunch of guys, each one of whom could be the starter. We have a special group. Every one of us has a chance to implement their ability in a unique way."
Jennings, who had 733 yards rushing and six touchdowns last season, became the Raiders' top back midway through the season after Darren McFadden suffered an injury.
Jennings said he was glad to see Wilson at practice Thursday. Wilson stood on the sideline during practice, wearing his jersey but no equipment.
"It's good to see him," Jennings said. "He was bright-eyed and ready to go. As soon as I saw him walk off the field (during Tuesday's practice), I hurt as well. He's a big part of this team and we want him back. I don't care if a guy walks off the field with a bad pinky, it's not good. We had to let him know today that we're here and thinking of him."
Wilson was not made available to the media on Thursday. The severity of his neck injury was also not released by the team. He remains sidelined after suffering a neck "burner," according to coach Tom Coughlin.
Wilson will not practice for the remainder of the week and will not play in the Giants' preseason opener Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
"We're just praying that the kid is OK," Coughlin said after practice. "Until we hear what the doctors say, we're obviously concerned. He came back and exhibited no fear. We were really excited to see him out there. Now, we just wait to see."
Coughlin likes what Jennings brings to the backfield.
"Rashad has done well so far," Coughlin said. "He's done well with his pass protection schemes. Progress is being made by all of them."
Jennings quoted Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden in talking about Wilson's injury and what it meant to him personally.
"I live by a quote, 'When opportunity presents itself, it's too late to prepare for it,'" Jennings said. "The NFL is all about 'the next man up' mentality. No other player should motivate another to work hard. I have to be ready."
Fellow running back Michael Cox also expressed his concerns about his teammate Wilson and Wilson's uncertain future.
"We're all praying for him," Cox said. "He's still around and he's still with us. He's in a good mood, so that seems good. We just hope it's nothing too serious and he can get back on the field with us as soon as possible."
Jennings knows all about opportunity. At Liberty High School in Lynchburg, Virginia, Jennings was the fifth-string running back as a junior.
"A Tennessee scout came to see our first string tailback and he got hurt," Jennings said. "The second string guy also got hurt. They brought in a wide receiver to play there and he got hurt. All in the same game.
"Finally, the coach had to put me in and in 14 plays, I scored four touchdowns, two on offense and two on defense. When that opportunity comes, you have to be ready. That was a big turning point in my life. I was in the right place at the right time. I made the most of the right opportunity. It all ended up working to my benefit."
Now with Wilson out for an extended period, it looks as if Jennings, Cox, rookie Andre Williams and veteran Peyton Hillis, who got a lot of time with the first team offense during practice Thursday, will have to fill the void.
"The young guy (Williams) has come along when given the chance," Coughlin said. "The young guy has to learn about pass blocking and receiving. Cox has been around here for a year. We're just going to let this thing play out and go with a combination of them. They'll get plenty of opportunity to show where they fit."
NOTES: Rookie CB Bennett Jackson got tangled with WR Corey Washington on a deep pass and was apparently injured on the play. Jackson required medical attention from the trainers and later went for X-rays on his ankle. ... LB Spencer Paysinger was not in uniform for practice. His status is in question. ... Wilson was spotted on the sideline playfully catching a bird that flew onto the field. Wilson scooped up the bird with a towel and moved it away from danger. ... DE Robert Ayers came off the field toward the end of practice with what appeared to be a sprained right ankle. ... Offensive lineman Will Beatty also left practice with an undisclosed injury.
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