INDIANAPOLIS — No one wanted to admit it, not then, not when the season seemed to be falling apart.
The Giants had not played a game that counted before injuries already had claimed Terrell Thomas. Then Marvin Austin. Then Jonathan Goff. Then others.
Those who remained publicly preached confidence and patience, saying everything would be all right.
But looking back on those dark days, some Giants admitted Wednesday that they had doubts and are impressed with how much they overcame to unexpectedly reach Super Bowl XLVI.
"We at times have sat around and talked about that and said, 'Wow, after all the injuries we've had, look at what we've done,"' linebacker Michael Boley said.
"We definitely talked about it amongst ourselves," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said.
And the Giants say those injuries brought them closer together as a team — and just might have been a key in propelling them to Indianapolis.
"I think that might be the biggest highlight of the season, with (overcoming) the injuries, with the despair of us starting 6-2 and then losing four straight," safety Deon Grant said. "We stuck together, and I think that brought us even closer together than we expected."
The Giants have 13 players on injured reserve, lost for the season — not including Sage Rosenfels and Brandon Stokley, who were placed on IR then released, or Chad Jones, who is on the non-football injury list.
There is precedence for teams overcoming such losses: The Packers had 15 players on injured reserve last season when they won the Super Bowl. But the Giants didn't lose just numbers. They lost talent — and a lot of it.
Thomas, arguably their top cornerback. Goff, the starting middle linebacker. Receiver Domenik Hixon. Starting left tackle Will Beatty.
And other players battled lingering injuries all season long. Justin Tuck missed four games. Osi Umenyiora missed seven. Ahmad Bradshaw missed four.
"We have been through a lot," safety Antrel Rolle said. "It just seemed like everyone was dropping like flies."
But all the losses emphasized the us-against-the-world mentality they carried over from last season's second-half collapse. And it gave them the confidence to realize that if they could overcome that, they could overcome anything.
And now the Giants are healthy and facing the Patriots for their second championship in four years. They practiced for the first time Wednesday in Indianapolis, with every player on the roster participating.
Overcoming those injuries is a testament to the team's resiliency. It also showed its depth.
A number of backups seemed to come from nowhere.Comment on this story
Guards Kevin Boothe and Mitch Petrus stepped in on the offensive line. Rookies Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones and Spencer Paysinger were forced to grow up fast at linebacker, holding down the position until Chase Blackburn was signed in late November.
Aaron Ross started at cornerback, and Rolle was forced to cover slot receivers.
Depth is more important than ever in the NFL, according to Phil Simms, an NBC football analyst and former Giant quarterback.
"You have to be fortunate to get through the playoffs now," he said.