EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Sipping a protein drink from one of the two cans in his hands, New York Giants’ second-year guard Mitch Petrus talked excitedly about making his making his first start three days ago and how much he looks forward to this weekend’s NFC East showdown with the Cowboys in Dallas.
When the words weren’t coming out of his mouth like they had been fired from a machine gun, Petrus laughed. Some of it was nervous laughter, some was just fun.
Whatever, Petrus is now in the spotlight as the Giants’ starting left guard after being somewhat just another body on the roster for almost two seasons.
“I wanted this opportunity,” Petrus said Wednesday after the Giants (6-6) started preparations for Sunday night’s game against the first-place Cowboys (7-5). “I wanted to make the most of it.”
Less than a week ago, Petrus probably never envisioned being in this role.
Riding with Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee to the Giants’ game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Petrus wasn’t certain whether he would even be active for the contest at MetLife Stadium.
The fifth-round draft pick from Arkansas not only dressed, he started when the Giants had to re-shuffle their line after center David Baas developed severe headaches and was unable to play.
Kevin Boothe moved from left guard to center and the excitable Petrus took over for him and played well, according to teammates.
Boothe, the super sub who has started at both guard positions and center at times this season, smiled when asked about Petrus’ energy level.
“Sometimes we had to calm him down, but he brings a lot of energy. It’s needed. It’s needed, sometimes,” Boothe said. “We appreciate Mitch and he played well.”
Boothe said Petrus not only played hard, he talked a good game, too, an allegation Petrus denied.
“I don’t talk trash,” Petrus said. “I communicate with the guys. I don’t talk trash. I don’t want to waste energy. I get too tired. I don’t want to get out of breath. You’ll see me on the sidelines get oxygen. I don’t waste time talking thrash.”
With Baas’ medical problems unresolved, Petrus seemingly will be in the starting lineup again.
He has no plans to slow down.
“I go all out,” said the Carlisle, Ark. native who walked on at Arkansas as a fullback. “I don’t want to play with any regrets. I don’t want to waste the ability I have been blessed with and go half speed. I want to make the most of it. But I don’t play with a chip on my shoulder. I just want to make the most of my opportunity and go all out so when I look back on it, I gave my best and I have no regrets even though we win, lose or draw.”
Petrus isn’t making anything special out of playing the Cowboys. Growing up, he watched mostly Dallas games on television because they were the regional team.
As far as his allegiance, he has always been a Razorback. Now his loyalty is to the Giants.
“I have to have high energy,” he said. “That’s what made me successful. It’s got to be a controlled energy. That’s what I learned. If you just go all out, it will be haywire because you won’t have good technique. You have to be focused on the good things and use the energy the right way.”
Petrus may have had an advantage going against the Packers and tackle B.J. Raji. Green Bay expected to see Boothe at the left guard spot and they really had little, if any, videotape on Petrus, who was active for only four of the Giants’ first 12 games, and played in only two of those.
The Cowboys, who are tied for second in the league with 35 sacks, might test Petrus.
“They can say ‘Let’s see what this guy has because if he can’t stuff it, we’re going to keep bringing it,’” Petrus said. “That’s how it is going to be. If I pick it up and stop it, they’ll try another area. If I don’t stop it, it’s going to be a long day.
“But I am up for the challenge.”
Veteran left tackle David Diehl wasn’t surprised Petrus held his own as did Boothe.
“There wasn’t a dropoff,” Diehl said. “We didn’t change our offense. We didn’t change our game plan. We ran what we wanted to going into the game and they did a great job for us.”
Baas had tests to determine the cause of his recent headaches and neck pain, which he has had most of the season. He would not disclose the results.
“I really want to play football but my health is very important to me ,” Baas said. “They will make the best decision.”
NOTES: S Kenny Phillips is day to day with a sprained left knee. He said there is no tear. … Running backs Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) did not practice, but both are expected to play Sunday. … WR Mario Manningham (knee) worked out on a limited basis for the first time in more than a week.