EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' kick return game took a huge hit Wednesday when wide receiver and returner Domenik Hixon was diagnosed with a season-ending knee injury, one day after getting hurt during the team's first practice at its new billion-dollar stadium.
Hixon's injury was originally thought to be a simple hyper-extension of the right knee, but an MRI at the Hospital for Special Surgery revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. The injury occurred Tuesday during the Giants' first workout inside the New Meadowlands Stadium when Hixon caught his foot in the new FieldTurf surface while attempting to cut during a punt return. He left the field under his own power.
"He got his foot stuck in there," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "You can see it on the tape; he's turning a little bit."
A team spokesman said Hixon will undergo surgery in two to three weeks and will miss the 2010 season. The general rehabilitation time from such surgery is one year.
The injury is unsettling because it happened during the Giants' first appearance in their new $1.6 billion stadium. It also triggered questions about the condition of the FieldTurf. Several players commented Tuesday that the surface was soft, a function of its newness. Others noted the crushed rubber base was clumped in some spots, creating an uneven feeling.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese said he has been in touch with the manufacturers of FieldTurf and has asked them to consider altering the several seams that could create problems, including the one around the removable midfield team logo.
Reese also said Hixon's injury had nothing to do with the seams.
"It could have happened right out here, on the grass," Reese said as the Giants worked out on their natural grass practice field Wednesday. "Where Domenik went down, that had nothing to do with seams. Where he went down, there were no seams over there. It was just a freak thing to happen, and we'll just have to deal with it."
Although Hixon signed a $1.684 million, non-guaranteed tender as a restricted free agent, the Giants must honor the contract because he was injured.
Hixon's injury hurts the Giants in three spots -- wide receiver, kickoff return and punt return.
Ever since arriving in the Meadowlands in 2007, Hixon has built a reputation as a returner who is not afraid to fly into the teeth of the kick coverage. His 22.6-yard average on 57 kickoff returns last year included several he nearly broke for touchdowns. And, his 15.1 yard average on 17 punt returns included a 79-yard touchdown return Dec. 6 against Dallas.
Unless the Giants go outside the organization for help, Hixon's likely successor is either wide receiver Sinorice Moss or wide receiver Mario Manningham.
Moss, a fifth-year veteran, returned punts for the first time last season, averaging a 6.7-yard return on 11 punts. He also returned six kickoffs for an 18.2-yard average. Manningham, in his third season, has never returned a punt or a kickoff in the NFL.
Reese said the Giants' punt return game is the biggest concern. Moss was criticized last season for a lack of ball security and his penchant for running side to side instead of straight ahead.
Reese said he would explore trade possibilities to shore up that area.
Notes: DE Justin Tuck left the afternoon practice early because of a sore foot. ... Safety Michael Johnson went down in the afternoon session with a leg cramp, but popped right up and resumed practice. ... CB Corey Webster left the morning practice after jamming his left middle finger while breaking up Eli Manning's pass to Steve Smith. ... Retired punter Jeff Feagles appeared on the practice field helping out rookie punters Matt Dodge and Jy Bond. ... Tight end Kevin Boss, midway through his rehabilitation for ankle surgery, said he expects to be 100 percent by training camp. He will not participate in minicamp.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press