NFL: Former UNC star Nicks hits the field for Giants

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 8, 2009

Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ó In his first 7-on-7 drill with the New York Giants, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks made a quick move at the line of scrimmage past fellow rookie Stoney Woodson and was suddenly wide open 10 yards behind the defense.
If one play was any indication, the first-round draft pick from North Carolina certainly showed he could provide a deep threat that the Giants lost when they waived the troubled Plaxico Burress early last month.
The bad news on the play was that second-year quarterback Andre Woodson underthrew Nicks running down the left seam and Stoney Woodson recovered quickly to knock the pass down. But before the drill was over, Nicks went deep again and caught a long pass.
He also wasn’t the only one who went deep Friday as the Giants opened a two-day camp for rookies and free agents.
Third-round draft pick Ramses Barden, the 6-foot-6 clone of Burress from little Cal Poly, caught a long pass from Rhett Bomar, the former Oklahoma quarterback who was taken in the fifth round after completing his career at Sam Houston State.
“I thought Ramses and Hakeem both did a nice job of catching the ball today,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “We will see if they can come back and do it a couple days in a row.”
Make no mistake, the Giants need someone to stretch the defense next season.
Burress, who caught the winning pass in the Super Bowl over the then-undefeated New England Patriots in February 2008, provided that since joining the team as a free agent in 2005. New York was 11-1 when Burress accidentally shot himself in the thigh in late November in a New York City nightclub and was eventually suspended for the rest of the season.
Without him, the offense struggled and the team went 1-4 down the stretch, losing at home to Philadelphia in the NFC semifinal.
Nicks avoided comparisons to Burress.
Nicks insisted that he wants to be himself and do the things that made him a first-round pick. He caught 21 touchdowns in his Tar Heel career, averaging almost 16 yards a reception.
“I didn’t feel any pressure at all,” Nicks said. “I just want to go out and play the game that I have been playing, do what I have been doing to get me up to this point. Nothing is guaranteed. I have to work hard for my spot. That is what I am looking forward to right now.”
Nicks said his biggest assignment now is learning the offense.
“You have to know what everybody is doing on the field,” he said. “That is just the game of football. Me being the leader by example, on and off the field, on the field especially, I want to make sure everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing.”