Ahmad Bradshaw was in many ways the heart and soul of the Giants the past few seasons. He played through injury after injury, and often excelled, while helping raise the team’s competitive spirit. Bradshaw was a rookie when the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008 and a key cog in another title last February.
Now he is gone, the latest victim of the Giants’ offseason building process. Bradshaw and defensive lineman Chris Canty, himself injured often during his four-season stint with the Giants, were waived on Wednesday.
Bradshaw, 27, was to make $3.75 million this season, with a $2.75 million cap hit. Canty was expected to be released given his $6.25 million salary and a similarly high cap hit.
Bradshaw would be in the prime of his career if not for a series of lower-leg injuries. He is sixth on the franchise’s career rushing list with 4,232 yards and rushed for 32 touchdowns, the ninth-highest total in team history.
Bradshaw also caught 132 passes for 1,087 yards and three touchdowns. He is one of six players in team history with 3,000 rushing yards and 100 receptions, as well as 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin admired Bradshaw, often singling him out for his toughness and skill while playing through painful injuries.
“Ahmad Bradshaw was drafted 250th in a class of 255, and to excel and to perform the way that he has, and to accomplish what he has, is a great tribute to him,” Coughlin said. “He is not only an exceptional football play, but he is the epitome of ‘line up and play’. Regardless of the circumstances, he’s going to give you everything he’s got. If you give the ball to him, he’s going to get every inch of what is there – and sometimes when it’s not blocked, he still gets it.”
“Pound for pound,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said, “Bradshaw is one of the toughest football players that I’ve been around. Ahmad played football like Giants football should be played.”
This season Bradshaw led the Giants with 1,015 yards, the second-highest total of his career, despite missing games at Carolina with a neck injury and Atlanta with a sprained knee. His 4.6 yards-per-carry matched his career average and he scored six touchdowns. Bradshaw had career-high totals of 200 yards on 30 carries in a victory over Cleveland on Oct. 7.
A year earlier, Bradshaw scored the Super Bowl’s game-winning touchdown on a 6-yard run with 57 seconds left in the victory over the Patriots. He finished with a game-high 72 yards on 17 carries.
“Ahmad Bradshaw has been an incredible part of two world championship teams here,” Coughlin said. “(The second-quarter) play is going to be one of the least-talked about plays in his much-talked about and revered years here as a New York Giant. It could be the biggest play in the Super Bowl XLII win. This guy goes down in a pile and takes the ball away from a Patriot player who has it in his hands. It was an incredible play. The guy has the ball and Bradshaw goes down and gets the ball and it’s our ball. Rather than losing the ball to Tom Brady and that high-scoring offensive team, he saves the day with that play. Just an incredible football play.”
Bradshaw is second in Giants postseason history in rushing yards (480) and third in attempts (111). His playoff average of 4.32 yards is a team record.
But the Giants figured it was time to cut ties while factoring in the cap hit with chronic foot and ankle injuries. “Bradshaw has great toughness,” Coughlin said. “He plays through anything. He doesn’t just talk about playing hurt. He does play hurt. If anyone knows the quality of this man’s pain threshold, all you need to do is watch him on a Monday when he can’t even walk. He gets a little better on Tuesday, a little better on Wednesday. By Thursday, his spirits are back up and whether he can or he can’t, he’s telling you he’s practicing on Friday, and he does. And he plays on Sunday. And he goes through the same cycle. He did that for two or three years.”
Andre Brown and David Wilson are expected to help fill the void. Brown rushed for 385 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns before suffering a fractured fibula vs. Green Bay on Nov. 25. Wilson, the Giants’ first-round draft choice in 2012, rushed for 358 yards and four scores, and also set a franchise record with 1,533 kickoff return yards.
Canty, 30, and Michael Boley, who was cut on Tuesday, arrived via free agency in 2009. Canty started 45 of 49 games he played and totaled 155 tackles (101 solo) and 9.0 sacks. Canty started all 20 regular-season and postseason games in the Giants’ 2011 championship season.
“Chris Canty is a pro’s pro, a true team player and competitor,” Reese said. “He helped us get to the top in 2011 and it was a pleasure having him here during his time with the New York Giants.”
“Chris Canty is a high-character, highly intelligent young man,” Coughlin said. “He distinguished himself a year ago down the stretch for a number of reasons. One, the quality of his play, and two, is the toughness he displayed, which was a great statement about the quality of the individual.”
Canty underwent knee surgery shortly after last year’s Super Bowl. He was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp and missed the first six games. He made his 2012 debut in a victory over Washington on Oct. 21. Canty started all nine games in which he played and finished the season with 31 tackles (24 solo) and 3.0 sacks.
Canty was limited to eight games in 2009 because of hamstring, calf and knee injuries.
The Giants’ current defensive tackles include Linval Joseph, who started all but one game the previous two seasons; Marvin Austin, who played in eight games in his first NFL season in 2012; and Markus Kuhn, last year’s seventh-round draft choice, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament at Cincinnati on Nov. 11. Rocky Bernard, who also joined the Giants as a free agent in 2009, is a free agent.
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