Eric Swann, the Arizona Cardinals' two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle out nearly a year while recovering from two operations on his right knee, has been cleared by doctors to play Sunday against the New York Giants.
"The knee's doing great," Swann said after Thursday's practice. "I passed all the tests, the endurance test on it and the sprint test, so we're going to go out and just have some fun this weekend with the Giants."
The 6-foot-5 Swann, who said he's lost 30 pounds since he last played to a slimmed-down 305 pounds. He plans to play on second- and third-down long-yardage situations.
"If I'm needed, I'll probably go in for more," Swann said. "If not, we're going to take it slow and re-evaluate it after three weeks. If everything is fine by then, I'm cleared to go the rest of the year."
Coach Vince Tobin wouldn't say for sure that Swann would play, but defensive coordinator Dave McGinnis had no such hesitation.
"We will use him in this ball game," McGinnis said, "but when and how much will depend on what goes on the rest of the week."
Swann has been severely criticized by some fans and local sports talk show hosts who thought he abandoned the team by not trying to come back for last year's playoff run following the first surgery. But Swann has said he did what he had to do to try to save his career.
"I knew I had to do something if I wanted to continue to play football, and my heart's still in the game," Swann said. "I'm not done with the game yet. I've got probably another good six or seven years left in me."
Swann, plagued by constant pain due to an arthritic condition, first underwent surgery by Cardinals team doctor Russell Chick shortly after the seventh game last season, which also was against the Giants.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, he had a second, more extensive surgery performed by Dr. Richard Steadman, the noted knee specialist in Vail, Colo.
What followed was a long rehabilitation process.
"I see a guy that's anxious to get back, didn't like the situation he was in and has worked extremely hard to get back," Tobin said. "It's been the popular thing to throw brickbats at Eric Swann, but I've seen a guy that's worked awfully hard in a very lonely, regimented routine to get back as quickly as he can."
Swann's imminent return was welcome news to a team that limps into the Giants' game with a 1-3 record.
"Hopefully he'll be lifting up those guards and centers on the other team and throwing them in the backfield," quarterback Jake Plummer said. "It's great to hve him back. He's worked so hard. I'm excited to see him play. He's such a force in there."
Swann said he knows opponents will target his knee in his first few games.
"I'm sure they are. I've been doing that myself," he said with a smile. "I've allowed my 2-year-old to jump up and down on it, and cut block me and everything else, so it feels great."
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