- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There was no sign of Steve Smith at the Giants practice facility on Friday -- not on the practice field, not in the locker room, not even on the nameplate above his locker, which was curiously missing.
The Giants' top wide receiver will be absent as well when the team hosts the Cowboys on Sunday. An MRI on Thursday revealed a slight pectoral tear. It won't require surgery but will need rest starting now.
"They say a limited amount of time, but not necessarily right away or this week or next week," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I won't know until he starts rehabbing. He hasn't had much swelling, some discomfort, so a lot of it in the beginning will probably be preventative to make sure that there's no further injury and then to strengthen and go forward."
Coughlin said that wide receivers Ramses Barden and Duke Calhoun can expect more playing time, and Mario Manningham will get an augmented role as well. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said that Smith allowed the Giants more versatility since he demanded defenses to commit to cover him.
"I think people basically have said it's hard to cover him one-on-one inside," Gilbride said Thursday. "So people have committed other people and additional resources, whether it's another person or a schematic adjustment, so that either opens up running opportunities for us or passing opportunities for other people. It's a huge loss, but we'll make do."
Smith is statistically the No. 2 receiver on the team with 47 catches for 517 yards and three touchdowns. Hakeem Nicks leads the corps with 51 catches for 653 yards and nine touchdowns. Nicks had a pretty strong reaction to the news that Smith will be out.
"How soon can we get him back?" Nicks said. "Of course Steve is a key part of our offense. We definitely need him to continue this season, but I think he'll be fine, take a few weeks off from what he's saying, and he'll be back out here. In the meantime Ramses and Mario will step up to the challenge."
Barden had a 22-yard catch against Dallas three weeks ago. He said he would be ready to go in and play the slot, even though at 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds his size might not make him a natural fit for that receiver type.
"If there's ever an issue, somebody gets tired, somebody gets a hangnail, I'm the next guy to go in so I need to be prepared to go in at every position," Barden said. "And this week it just happens to be the slot so I am as prepared for that as I am for any other."
Giants quarterback Eli Manning has had a lot of success passing against the Cowboys in recent wins. Manningham, Smith and Nicks were a large part of that in the past two seasons. Manning had 306 passing yards in Dallas three weeks ago.
"We've got to make it easier for Eli, make easier reads for him," Manningham said.
The Giants are playing from a position of strength despite missing Smith and two starting offensive linemen in center Shaun O'Hara (foot) and left tackle David Diehl (hip/hamstring). The Giants are 6-2 and have a recent win over the 1-7 Cowboys. If the Giants can play through this stretch, they should have Smith back before long.
"It's going to be one of those deals, hopefully week to week and we'll see," Coughlin said.
Tackle Will Beatty is questionable with a foot injury.
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) is probable and expected to play.
Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. ESPN.com's John Clayton contributed to this report.
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