By Ernie Palladino
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As presidents Clinton, the Bushes and Obama told the nation on the night David Letterman retired, "Our long, national nightmare is over."
If only they were referring to a more local fright dream that happened earlier in New Jersey. The latest installment of Tom Coughlin's own nightmare -- one that has played out every year lately -- may just be cranking itself up again. And Coughlin knows as well as anyone that this, of all years, is not the time to repeat the night tremors that have stalked the Giants coach's nocturnal activities since the 2011 Super Bowl season.
They have been pretty terrible. Key players landing on the surgeon's table, missing major parts of the season, playing at reduced capacity once they do come back. And that's not to mention the succession of others who followed the same path during those seasons, decimating entire positions.
He can only hope that history doesn't repeat itself, though the beginning of another, potentially endless hospital list has already occurred. Will Beatty tore a pectoral muscle in the weight room, underwent surgery, and now must begin a five- to six-month rehab that will keep him out of the lineup until mid-November if everything goes smoothly.
The Letterman "nightmare" ends, the Giants' begins anew.
Same day, different channel.
One a punch line, the other not so much.
The mere fact of losing Beatty doesn't hold the gravity the trend of offseason and preseason injuries does for the Giants. Beatty had a good enough season at left tackle in 2014. Not great. Not superhuman. But good enough to keep Eli Manning's uniform clean on all but three pass plays.
The bigger picture, though, shows the 30-year-old Beatty as the senior and most stable member of an offensive line undergoing major change. With either new (first-rounder Ereck Flowers), come backing (Geoff Schwartz), or shifted (Weston Richburg and, possibly, Justin Pugh) players occupying the other four spots, it would have been nice to leave at least the most important position untouched.
That won't be possible now. The entire line will now head into training camp in a state of flux, and Coughlin can only hope that the non-contact offseason practices of the next few weeks will provide some gelling, or at least some positional knowledge, to those charged with improving the poor run blocking and just-adequate pass protection of last season.
On the grander scale of history, Beatty joins luminaries such as Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul and Jon Beason as offseason injuries that had a major effect on the squad.
Nicks popped his fifth metatarsal during a routine drill in 2012 and didn't get back to camp until August 21. Though he started the season, he missed three games with a knee problem and never again approached the 1,000-yard receiving numbers he put up in 2010 and '11.
Pierre-Paul underwent surgery in June of 2013 to fix a herniated disc that hindered him throughout 2012, missed the entire preseason, and then missed the last five games of the regular season with a shoulder injury. Despite tagging him with the franchise designation in this year's free agency, the Giants are still waiting for JPP to find the form that made him a sack monster in 2011.
And if anyone has forgotten by now, Jon Beason went down with a broken foot during an organized practice session June 13 of last year. Despite a surprisingly rapid recovery, Beason struggled in the four games he played and finally relented to season-ending surgery. The resulting shifting and loss of Beason's leadership resulted in instability in the linebacking corps, yet another reason for the 6-10 fall.
Those injuries were only the major ones. Promising running back Andre Brown's 2013 broken leg ruined his career and, coupled with David Wilson's neck injury, wrecked that season's running game. Safety Stevie Brown lost that entire season to an ACL tear.
Now Beatty, the one offensive lineman the Giants were not worried about, goes down.
It could be the beginning of another nightmare.
And that's not a joking matter.
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