During an otherwise routine training camp Sunday in Albany, N.Y., Domenik Hixon had flashbacks to his worst nightmare, the pain he endured from having consecutive seasons halted by a torn ACL. Hixon was an eyewitness during training camp on when cornerback Terrell Thomas slipped and fell during practice, suffering what various reports believe is a partial tear of his right ACL – the same injury that put him out of commission for all of last year. If it is torn, this will be the third torn ACL for Thomas.
Hixon is trying to return a pair of ACL injuries that have cost him most of the last two seasons. Yet the news surrounding Thomas is not only sobering, it’s stricken fear into Hixon over the possibility that the bug can bite at any given moment – and bite hard.
"I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t (scare me)," Hixon said Monday. "He was working hard at coming back and a lot of things he was doing I was doing. We were working out together so I saw how hard he worked. It was kind of tough seeing him go down just knowing how hard he worked at coming back."
Thomas’ career may be over at the tender age of 27. Hixon, also 27, is in the midst of attempting the same comeback Thomas was attempting during this training camp. Recalling both his rehab stints, Hixon believes he recovered a little faster when the cadaver was used to fix the ligament, though unlike the tendon graft the cadaver isn’t as strong when fully healed. When Thomas reported to camp he was in excellent physical condition and ready to fortify a Giants secondary that thanks to numerous injuries was a revolving door during the team’s Super Bowl-winning season.
Then, just like that, Thomas may have lost his livelihood with one slip. And as Hixon continued to compare his plight to that of his fallen teammate, the only certainly was nobody ever sees a bad break coming.
"People say ‘healthy’ but what does that mean?" Hixon said. "You work out every day and you try to do the right thing recovering. The leg workouts you do while you’re recovering are outrageous. Like I said before, when him and I were working out together I felt that we were coming back stronger. But then something like that happens and it’s tough. My heart goes out to him.
"I’m devastated for him and I know how much he was looking forward to coming back. I guess he’s getting a check up in California, so hopefully he comes back with some good news. It’s just stressful."
A surprise big-play contributor at wide receiver and special teams, Hixon suffered the second injury last season at home against the Rams while making a 22-yard juggling touchdown catch in the Giants’ 28-16 Monday night victory. Prior to getting hurt, Hixon was starting to come into his own as the third wideout behind Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, pulling in four receptions and averaging 12.5 yards a catch to go with that one score.
The funny thing was Hixon, soon after his highlight-reel grab, didn’t immediately realize that something was wrong. He continued to play in the second half until pulling out when he felt discomfort, but nothing like the pain from the first injury.
"They didn’t know how much it was torn," Hixon said. "When they did the surgery, they said we’re going to open you up and if you’re good to go we’ll sew you back up, or you may have a new ligament. If you looked at the picture, everything looked good until where the screw was put in. So they determined it was torn about 80 percent or so, but you can’t be 80 percent torn and playing in the NFL. You can be torn 80 percent in life, yes, but in the NFL, no."
Now at or close to 100 percent, Hixon has his best opportunity to secure the slot-receiver’s job playing with Hicks and Victor Cruz. The best part about it is there is nothing holding him back, and he’s reaping the benefits of full minicamps and offseason workouts in lieu of last year’s NFL lockout that pressed players back in action on a rapid schedule.
"I feel great. I really do," Hixon said. "I feel blessed and fortunate. I feel like the cadaver worked out a little better for me. Also, us having the summer program and being able to work out helped out tremendously, rather than just jumping into training camp.
"No restrictions. Like I said, I feel blessed. I feel good and I’m having a lot of fun. It feels good to be back."
Hixon is not only healthy, he’s armed with perspective. In adversity, there’s strength, and few have gone through as much as the fifth-year pro out of Akron. He plans on taking such fortitude to not only on the field, but to serve as an example of hope, even if Thomas’ prospects appear dim.
"He definitely can do it, Hixon said. "When you’re going through surgery a lot of things are going through your mind. The mental game that’s played, well unless you’ve been through it no one can understand. You can assume a lot of things but it’s one of toughest things for a professional athlete. It’s your job, so when you get injured that’s tough."
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