The last time the Giants had the whole team practice was Oct. 3, two days before a game against the Seattle Seahawks. The only player who was not at practice that day was receiver Plaxico Burress, who was suspended for missing a team meeting after a game against Cincinnati.
This marks the fourth straight year that the Giants (12-4) have reached the playoffs, but this year is special for defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and halfback Derrick Ward.
Kiwanuka and Ward both broke their left legs in the second half of last season and did not play in the Giants' run to a Super Bowl championship.
Kiwanuka, who was moved back to defensive end from linebacker this season after Osi Umenyiora was lost for the season with a knee injury in training camp, is excited about the chance to experience postseason action again.
"I was definitely very happy and very excited for my teammates and I definitely felt like I was a part of this team, but when it comes down to it you are a football player, you are a man, you have a job, and when you can't do it and you can't contribute, it takes a little bit out of you and it hurts a little bit," he said.
Kiwanuka added he has been waiting anxiously for the playoffs since the day he started his rehabilitation.
"From the day that you get cleared to run, you are running a little bit harder and the day you get cleared to hit you are hitting a little bit harder and that is something that can carry you all the way through," he said.
Ward had a spectacular season as Brandon Jacobs' backup. He gained 1,025 yards rushing as he and Jacobs become only the fourth pair of halfbacks on the same team to rush for 1,000 yards apiece in the same season.
This will be Ward's first playoff game. He suffered a foot injury against Philadelphia late in the 2006 season. He had a groin injury late in the 2005 season that also landed him on injured reserve.
"The last three years injuries have set me back from not playing in the playoffs, but you know things happen," Ward said.
"I was healthy all year this year and able to contribute, so it will just be a great time for me out there."
Ward spent the Super Bowl last year at home rooting for his teammates.
"When you are a kid you always dream about playing in the Super Bowl and contributing and doing all the things you need to do to get there, and unfortunately I wasn't able to do that last year, but that was last year and this is this year," he said. "We are pretty much healthy, we have the Eagles, and it will just be a great game to play in and to watch. I will be out there giving it my best."
Notes: Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride refused to say whether he approached the Raiders about their vacant coaching job or they asked the Giants for an interview.
The Raiders said Gilbride approached them about the job. He spoke with owner Al Davis by telephone last Saturday.
"I had a very enjoyable conversation with Mr. Davis and I'm very flattered he took the time to speak from what I believe was the hospital but to be honest I know I got the interview because of the success we had as a football team and particularly the players and coaches on the offensive side and I'd think it would be disrespectful for me to go into anything besides what matters so much to these players and coaches in this particular game," Gilbride said Thursday.