INDIANAPOLIS — Ahmad Bradshaw is playing in pain and loving every second of it.
The Giants running back has played the last eight games with a broken bone in his right foot, and there is no way the injury is going to keep him out of Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Patriots.
“It’s just the love of the game, man,” he said. “I don’t like missing games for nothing. I have been fighting pain for a long time. No matter what it is I got that niche, man. I like pain.”
Bradshaw hasn’t put up big numbers this season, but statistics aren’t what he brings to the offense.
The fifth-year pro brings a toughness that teammates respect. His foot hurts so much during the week that he practices only one day.
When he shows up on game day, though, he’s a different player. The pain is blocked out and he bites his lip and runs at, around and through defenses.
“The guy has an unbelievable threshold of pain,” running backs coach Jerald Ingram said. “I’ve had a few guys that were very resilient but that guy has played with broken bones, cracked this, cracked that. His game is football. That’s what he has been doing all his life. When he gets on the field, he is mean. He takes that pain.”
This isn’t the first time, either. Bradshaw played most of the 2009 season with two bad feet and had surgery three times after the season to insert screws in the fifth metatarsals of both feet and clean up some junk in his right ankle.
Bradshaw broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot again against the Dolphins in late October.
He was X-rayed during the game, and returned despite the presence of a fracture.
“He is a junk yard dog that wants to fight on game day,” Ingram said. “He doesn’t care. There was a linebacker who said to him: ‘Why do you run so mean? Why are you so mad?
Ingram remembers Bradshaw’s answer.
“‘Because I am mad at you,’” Ingram recalled. “That’s just Ahmad. He loves his toughs. He makes everybody tough because you look at him and say: ‘I don’t know if I can do that.’ We stub our toe on a bedpost and want to die. He walks around with it all day long.”
Bradshaw missed four games after being hurt against the Dolphins and returned against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 4. He rushed for 38 yards and caught two passes for 9 yards, but his return seemed to rekindle a running game that had struggled most of the season.
Since his return, the running game has gained at least 100 yards in five games and had no less than 85 in the other three.
It’s been far from a great season for Bradshaw. After rushing for 1,235 yards and eight TDs last year, he’s been limited to 659 yards and nine touchdowns. He has also caught two touchdown passes.
“He wants to win,” Giants guard Chris Snee said. “He is a winner. He is a very competitive guy. He plays through a lot of pain, You can see it throughout the week and then he walks in on game day and he is a new man, full of energy, before the game, during the game. Then he comes hobbling in on Monday morning.”
Bradshaw said he has not been bothered by his feet since his freshman year in college.
The good news for the Giants is that he has had two weeks to rest for the Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots and his feet aren’t feeling bad at this point. He said he has been able to get out of bed and not walk around in pain and Wednesday he broke his recent trend and practiced on a limited basis.
Since returning, he had practiced only on Fridays to get his feet under him and then took part in the Saturday walkthroughs.
“Bradshaw runs hard, man,” Patriots safety Patrick Chung said. “He runs hard, breaks tackles, and has a mean stiff arm. He’s fast and can get to the edge fast. He can make some big plays.”
Bradshaw doesn’t know whether he will need more surgery after the season. His last one came in February when he had his left ankle cleaned out. Trainers have told him the medicine is helping the bone grow back in his foot, but it’s too early to tell whether the right foot will be cut again.
Fellow running back Brandon Jacobs knows the scatback who runs like a big man will be ready on game day.
“He wants to come out here and give you all he’s got,” Jacobs said. “If he has it in him, you are going to get it from him. I look up to him. He is an inspiration to me to see how he plays. Once his adrenaline is pumping, he feels no pain.”