With the team riding a two-game losing streak that has suddenly put it out of a playoff position, the Giants (6-4) learned Monday that leading receiver Hakeem Nicks is going to be sidelined for at least three weeks after being treated for Compartment Syndrome in his lower right leg.
Nicks was hurt in Sunday's 27-17 loss in Philadelphia. He experienced swelling in the area Monday and was immediately taken to The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City where doctors were to perform a fasciotomy.
Dr. Victor Khabie, co-chief, Orthopedics and Spine Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital, said a fasciotomy is an emergency procedure to relieve the pressure on nerves and blood vessels.
"If it is not decompressed, there is no oxygen or blood flow getting to the muscles and the muscles die and you have permanent damage to the leg muscles, which obviously for an NFL receiver would be career ending," Khabie said.
Khabie said in fasciotomy, surgeons cut the fascia, the tight covering over muscles, to reduce the swelling.
"You know that boxing movie where Rocky's his eyes are swollen and you got to cut the eye to relieve the pressure," he asked. "It's kind of like that."
Nicks' absence could be crushing, as he is the team leader in catches (62), receiving yards (800) and touchdowns (nine).
No one seemed to know when Nicks was hurt, but he was seen limping after catching a 6-yard pass late in the third quarter on Sunday night.
Injuries have decimated the receiving corps in recent weeks. Steve Smith, who set a team record with 107 catches last season, suffered a partial tear in his pectoral muscle in practice on Nov. 11. Three days later, Ramses Barden broke his left ankle in a game against Dallas and was placed on injured reserve. Rookie Victor Cruz went on injured reserve earlier in the season with a hamstring injury.
Smith hopes to return to the lineup against Washington on Dec. 5.
With Nicks out, Mario Manningham and Derek Hagan are the only veteran receivers on the roster for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-4). Hagan was signed last week after being released in training camp. The only other wideouts on the team are rookie Duke Calhoun and Darius Reynaud, who was the returner until suffering a hamstring injury against Dallas on Oct 25.
"We've got some young guys who've got to step up," quarterback Eli Manning said. "Obviously, having Derek here last week will help, he'll have another week. Mario is going to have a big week. We're going to have to get these tight ends into the mix with (Kevin) Boss and Beckum, athletic guys."
Khabie said how soon Nicks returns depends on the amount of muscle damage suffered and how many compartments had to be cut to relieve the pressure. He said surgeons might have to repeat the procedure in a couple of days to clean out any dead muscle, and that might sideline him for the season.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the team will work out some receivers on Tuesday. He hinted that tight end Travis Beckum, who caught a touchdown pass against Philadelphia, might line up as a receiver on some plays.
Coughlin also said the line is going to have to block better for the running game and the defense and special teams are going to have to contribute more.
"The guys that go on the field are going to give great effort," Coughlin said. "We're going to make sure they know exactly what they're doing, that they understand the responsibility and people have to do more."
Coughlin said injuries are a part of the game, noting the Giants chances of winning would improve if they stopped the turnovers. They had five against Philadelphia.
"I told the players today, there is no feeling sorry for ourselves," Coughlin said. "We're not one of those outfits. We're going to remain very positive and we're going to indicate that if we would stop being our own worst enemy, then we would have a chance to go forward here and win some football games."
Hagan, who had three catches for 10 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles, probably will replace Nicks in the starting lineup.
"I've got to be ready. I have no choice," Hagan said Monday. "I have to be ready, I want to be ready, and I know I'm ready. I've been in this offense. I know what's going on."
Backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels said the Giants simply have to find a way to win.
"Whether it's throwing it 60 times to some new guys or whether it's running it 60 times with the guys who we know can run the ball," Rosenfels said. "We have to find a way, scratching and clawing. One way or another, we need a win."
Coughlin had no information on whether tackle David Diehl (hip-hamstring) and center Shaun O'Hara (foot) would be ready to play this week. O'Hara said he felt better but he said he would know more about his status on Wednesday.
"If we can fight through this stretch and get some wins here, we'll have some guys coming back for the big push at the end of the season," Rosenfels said.
Nicks was the Giants' first-round selection in 2009, out of North Carolina. He had 790 yards receiving and six touchdowns as a rookie.