Two years ago, Osi Umenyiora stood alone.
Today, Umenyiora is standing strong -- and that's news too. His 2008 season ended abruptly last August when he suffered a knee injury in an exhibition against the New York Jets, meaning the Giants were without a major weapon in their defensive arsenal.
After all, it was Umenyiora, a defensive end, who collected 13 sacks two years ago, a club-record six of them in a game against Philadelphia.
So it's safe to say the Giants are elated to have Umenyiora back this season and ready to contribute, although they're taking it slow and easy with him.
"He wants to be out there worse than anyone else," defensive line coach Mike Waufle said last weekend, after Umenyiora's debut practice in pads. "He has worked through his issues, and he'll be out there soon on a regular basis."
Umenyiora is only one of several NFL standouts who will be back in action this season after being derailed by various injuries. Among the others:
QB Tom Brady, New England: Brady, the 2007 most valuable player, is returning from a knee injury suffered in the first quarter of last season's opener. He'll wear a brace on his repaired left knee.
LB Shawne Merriman, San Diego: Merriman, a defensive fixture for the Chargers, briefly considered playing through a knee injury last season but ultimately opted for surgery. He's playing for a new contract, either with San Diego or elsewhere.
QB Carson Palmer, Cincinnati: Palmer called it a season last October because of a frayed ligament in his elbow. He started throwing again in February, and now, observers say, looks as good as ever.
*--* 2008 G CMP ATT YDS TD INT Cincinnati 4 75 129 731 3 4 *--*
T Chris Samuels, Washington: Samuels, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, missed the end of last season because of a torn triceps. He underwent surgery in the off-season and is working his way back into form.
CB Nathan Vasher, Chicago: Injuries last season limited the Pro Bowl corner to seven starts in eight games. Now, the Bears' secondary is also dealing with Zack Bowman's hamstring pull and Charles Tillman's recovery from back surgery.
*--* 2008 G TCK AST INT PD Chicago 8 20 1 1 5 *--*
RB Felix Jones, Dallas: Jones, a speedy rookie, finished last season on injured reserve with toe and hamstring injuries. The bum toe is what eventually ended his year. He sat out a practice this week with more toe pain, but it looks as if he'll be fine.
*--* 2008 G ATT YDS AVG TD Dallas 6 30 266 8.9 3 *--*