EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — One pass in four games isn't the only thing that New York Giants rookie receiver Rueben Randle has caught.
The second-round draft pick was on the receiving end of nationally-televised criticism by NBC football analyst Cris Collinsworth on Sunday, and it has left him a little confused.
During the Giants' loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia, Collinsworth said that some people with the team were questioning Randle's work ethic and were hoping that he grows up and becomes more of a professional.
Randle, who has had limited action with a veteran receiver corps, learned of Collinsworth's comments on Twitter. He admits he is still trying to learn a very complex offense, but he added that no one on the coaching staff has complained about his work ethic.
The bottom line for the Giants (2-2) is that they might need Randle on Sunday against the winless Cleveland Browns.
Hakeem Nicks missed his second straight game with foot and knee issues, and the receiving ranks took an unexpected hit early this week when Ramses Barden showed up at work on Tuesday with what was determined to be a concussion. Neither Nicks nor Barden practiced Wednesday, leaving Randle as the No. 3 receiver behind Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon.
Instead of talking about playing time, though, Randle spent more time being asked about Collinsworth.
"I am not really sure what he is referring to, so it is kind of hard for me to comment on it," Randle said of the criticism by the former receiver who has won an Emmy for his work as a sportscaster.
"I mean, as a rookie you come in and struggle and things like that," the former LSU product said. "My job here is (to) just continue to work hard and to trust in my teammates and the coaching staff each and every week, and just take advantage of the opportunities they give me."
Teammates defended the rookie.
"Rueben, he's young and he's trying to figure out what it takes to compete and get mentally and physically ready for upcoming games," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He has talent. He's been working better, having an understanding of just how we work and how we prepare each week, and he's been getting more reps these last few weeks. So he's doing a good job of putting everything together. He's going to have to play for us whether it is this week or sometime. He's going to have to make some plays for us, and I believe he can do that. He can help us out."
Most of the veterans said it's not surprising that a young player isn't picking things up right away.
Amani Toomer, who, like Randle, was a second-round pick, did almost nothing as a rookie. He really didn't start catching on until his second season, but retired holding a number of Giants receiving records.
"We've been trying to set an example for him, to kind of follow the whole working and football (idea)," Hixon said. "When you come to the Giants facility we're working. (He's) just trying to get his feet underneath him with the schedule and everything. Probably one of the most odd things at (the NFL level is) you go home, you don't go to class. So that's your study time. That's when you study tape and do different things like that. Just getting adjusted to the schedule."
Randle believes the one thing he needs to do is play faster. It's a comment that isn't surprising to hear from a rookie. It indicates that he is not comfortable with the system and isn't certain how to react when the defense presents certain looks.
"The offense that we have here is complex, and we have different routes and different coverages, so on the snap of the ball the safety might do something different from pre-snap," Randle said. "So you got to pick up things a lot faster."
One way to do that is to put your face in the playbook. Cruz said the Giants system also requires the receivers to be attentive to a number of things, particularly who Manning points out as a middle linebacker and any checks he makes before the snap. Cruz also took Collinsworth's comments as part of the game.
"His job is to look at certain players and make his judgments," Cruz said. "Rueben is a guy who is working extremely hard and has fit into our receiving room very well, and (he) understands what he is doing. It's a matter of him being comfortable with the offense more and more as these weeks progress. I think he is just going to be more and more comfortable and will start making more and more plays for us."
Randle, who gained six yards on his one reception, seemed more concerned about being ready for the Browns than any criticism.
"You can't really focus on the outside," he said. "As long as you know what is going on the inside and how your teammates feel and coaching staff feels, everything on the outside you just got to let it stay (outside)."
The 21-year-old, considered one of the best wide receivers to come out of the 2012 NFL Draft class, left LSU after his junior season.
NOTES: Besides Barden and Nicks, C David Baas (hand), DT Rocky Bernard (quadriceps), LB Michael Boley (hip), S Kenny Phillips (knee), G Chris Snee (hip) and CB Corey Webster (hand) did not practice Wednesday. ... OT David Diehl worked on a limited basis for the first time since spraining a knee against Tampa Bay in Week 2. CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring), LB Keith Rivers (hamstring) and S Antrel Rolle (knee) also were limited. Expect Stevie Brown to start if Phillips can't go.
Do you think Collinsworth took a cheap shot, or do you think he's right and the Giants are protecting their rookie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below...
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