EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Manning got under the center and everything looked normal, for the most part.
He identified the middle linebacker, barked out a few signals and took the snap from Shaun O'Hara. The only thing out of the ordinary was this: Manning was wearing a blue Giants baseball cap to cover his head and the meding 3-inch wound on the left side of his forehead.
Different? Absolutely. But the Giants had their quarterback back at practice and getting ready to start Saturday's next-to-last preseason game against the Ravens in Baltimore.
"I liked his tempo right away," coach Tom Coughlin said after practice. "He got the ball out of his hand quick and made some real good decisions. So we're glad to have him back on the practice field."
Manning, who intends to wear his helmet at practice Wednesday, left no doubt before practice that he will play against the Ravens.
"If everything goes according to plan, yes," Coughlin said.
Manning was held out of the Giants' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. The team was concerned the gash would reopen if he were hit or would become irritated or infected by wearing a helmet.
The 12 stitches that closed the wound were removed Friday, four days after he was bloodied in the game against the Jets. Manning's helmet was knocked off and he was hit by safety Jim Leonhard.
"It's no fun sitting out, sitting out practice last week," Manning said. "At least it was a short week and I didn't miss too much. I like being out there for the games. It is preseason and I was trying to be smart and make sure I get everything healed now where you have a little time."
Manning, who led the Giants to a Super Bowl in February 2008, has started a franchise-record 87 consecutive regular-season games.
"I'm feeling great," Manning said before practice. "Ready, excited about getting out to practice today and getting back into the action."
Manning said the gash is healing and the scar is not too bad. The team plans to add extra padding to his helmet and has talked to the helmet manufacturer, Schutt Sports, about adjustments.
The third preseason game is usually the most important for NFL teams. It's the one that the starters play at least a half.
The Giants' offense needs the work. The unit has been limited in the preseason with starting guards Chris Snee (knee) and Rich Seubert (hand) out The team also was forced to use third-string quarterback Rhett Bomar the whole game against the Steelers because of injuries to Manning and backup Jim Sorgi (shoulder), which meant the game plan had to be reduced.
Snee and Seubert are due back this week and the Giants have most of their tight ends back, too. They have played short-handed most of training camp with Kevin Boss (hamstring), Travis Beckum (hamstring) and Scott Chandler (hip) bothered by injuries.
"It's just something that happens at training camp," Manning said. "You get a few guys banged up, and if it's time to get everybody back, this is kind of the time you want everybody back when you're getting close to the start of the season.
"We've got a long week, a full week between games. So I'm looking forward to a great week of practice and getting everybody kind of back healthy, back into sync of what we're doing."