ALBANY, N.Y. -- Five-plus years into his career with the New York Giants, offensive lineman David Diehl finally became a spectator.
In a league known for tackling, blocking and hitting, the starting left tackle missed his first NFL practice because of an injury.
The rarity happened on Sunday night when Diehl had to watch practice at training camp at the University of Albany because of bruised ribs. He wasn't happy about it either.
"I hate missing practice," Diehl said Monday before heavy rain forced the Super Bowl champions indoors for a walkthrough. "I have never missed practice. It is frustrating. It was awkward for me, very awkward. The only thing I can do is try to go back."
Diehl missing anything to do with football falls in the blue-moon category. The fifth-round draft pick from Illinois has started all 86 regular-season and playoff games since joining the team.
He missed a play in Dallas in 2004 when sustained a cut above his eye after being poked.
"I didn't even want to come out," Diehl recalled. "The referee made me come out because I was bleeding."
Diehl also missed a series in the playoff win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January because of dehydration.
As far as practices, Diehl does not know the last time he missed one. He does not think he missed one in either college or high school.
"God knows when," he said.
"A lot of it is luck," Diehl said of his ability to stay healthy. "Everybody in this sport takes care of themselves, gets massages, eats right, does all those things. A lot of times with pro linemen, injuries happen when you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fortunately for me, that hasn't happened and I am not going to think about that now.
"I'll be back," he said. "I'm not worried, it was just a little frustrating."
With Diehl out, third-year pro Guy Whimper filled in at left tackle.
Diehl watched, intently.
"I was sitting there watching the plays and trying to think through what I do out there, think through the footwork," Diehl said.
When he wasn't watching, Diehl was giving pointers to Whimper, who was getting his own workout going head-to-head with Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
"If you can see little things that can help the other guy out, that's part of being a teammate and part of being in our group," Diehl said.
Diehl doesn't know how his ribs were bruised, adding the team was being cautious holding him out in the second practice on Sunday.
Diehl has been the Giants most versatile lineman. He started at right guard in 2003 and right tackle in 2004. He started mostly at left guard in 2005 and '06, before moving to left tackle last season.
"I definitely feel more comfortable than at this time last year," Diehl said. "I have all of last year under my belt. You have to go out there and earn it. I have taken each week and each day of training camp to improve as a player and get better."
Sunday was just a very rare day off.
Notes: The Giants picked up the option on their contract and will train at the University at Albany in 2009. The Giants have trained here since 1996, when they moved from Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey. They have drawn record crowds to camp, attracting 33,540 fans through 13 days this year. In 2004, when a record 45,040 fans attended, 30,110 had come through the gates after 13 practice days.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press