The Evil Turf!
Some New York Giants fans are in a panic right now, with wide receiver Dominick Hixon’s 2010 season ending before it began. For those who haven’t heard, the receiver/return man went down untouched during the Giants’ recent mini-camp, and torn his ACL. Season over.
The loss of Hixon as a receiver is probably minimal. He’s clearly behind Steve Smith and Mario Manningham on the depth chart, and could have easily been the fourth receiver behind second-year player Hakeem “Don’t Call Me Hicks” Nicks. In addition, the Giants also have Derek Hagan, Ramses Barden, and Sinorice Moss. There is a lot of excitement about Barden and his size (the Giants have been without a tall receiver that Eli Manning can throw a jump ball to since Plaxico Burress went to the slammer), and this injury may force the Giants to give Barden more of a chance.
Yet as minimal as Hixon’s impact as a receiver is, the loss of the Giants’ kickoff and punt returner can’t be overestimated. Hixon was a player who gave Giants’ fans a surge of excitement every time he made a return. Even when he wasn’t returning punts for touchdowns (like in East Rutherford against Dallas last season), he could be counted on to give the offense good field position with an impressive return.
The Giants could go back to Moss as a return man. Early last season, the Giants took Hixon out of the return rotation, feeling his value as a receiver was too great to risk injury on returns. The 1998 preseason injury to Jason Sehorn continues to haunt the Giants and affect strategy (it was recently reported that cornerback Aaron Ross wanted to return kicks. Fat chance at that.) Anyway, Moss was pretty terrible as a return man.
Hixon’s injury has led to a lot of panic about the new stadium’s artificial turf. The New Meadowlands Stadium uses FieldTurf and a lot of the players (as well as coach Tom Coughlin) commented that the turf was loose and wasn’t very good. Nevermind that the old stadium used FieldTurf as well, and people weren’t tearing their ACLs left and right.
The turf is like a pair of new shoes. You have to break it in first. Once the turf gets a little more usage, it will tighten up and the “What’s wrong with the turf” questions will go away. In fact, it’s possible all these other events at the stadium (for example, college lacrosse was the first event at the new stadium, not football) are being used to help break in the turf.