Hedgecock, key element to Giants ground game, signs extension

The New York Giants have signed fullback Madison Hedgecock, who has become a key component for their sixth-rated rushing attack, to a five-year contract extension through the 2012 season.

Financial details of the extension were not yet available. Hedgecock was in the final season of his original rookie contract, earning a minimum base salary of $435,000, and he would have been eligible for restricted free agency next spring without the extension.

Hedgecock, 26, was claimed on waivers by the Giants on Sept. 13, after the St. Louis Rams released him following the season opener. At the time, the Giants were seeking a replacement for seven-year veteran Jim Finn, who had been placed on injured reserve with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

A seventh-round choice of the Rams in the 2005 draft, Hedgecock stepped into the lineup and provided the Giants with the kind of lead-blocking fullback they needed.

In seven games, Hedgecock has yet to register a rushing attempt and has only four catches for 31 yards. But the New York running game has thrived, in part because of his ability to help clear inside lanes for the Giants' three-pronged tailback attack of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Reuben Droughns.

Entering Sunday afternoon's NFC East showdown against the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants are averaging 137.8 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per attempt.

In college, Hedgecock played tailback, fullback and defensive end, and he left North Carolina with nearly as many sacks (1½) as rushing touchdowns (two). At 6-feet-3, 266 pounds, and blessed with a natural aggressiveness, league scouts projected him as a tough-blocking fullback, and he has developed into exactly that.

Hedgecock has made 40 career appearances, and has two carries for two yards and 21 receptions for 136 yards.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.