As the New York Giants’ first-year defensive coordinator in 2007, Steve Spagnuolo liked what he saw in third-year cornerback Corey Webster.
Spagnuolo liked him even more later that season when Webster, a former LSU standout, was asked to cover some big-time wide receivers in the playoffs on their march to a win in Super Bowl XLII.
“Corey is one of my favorites,” said Spagnuolo, who, as defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, will see his former pupil in Sunday’s game with the Giants. “When we got there, he was young.
“That first season, he struggled at the beginning … then boom, all of a sudden, he hit a stride and we ended up using him in those four playoff games — and put him on the four best receivers,” he said.
Webster, now an eight-year veteran with two Super Bowl rings, held New England’s Randy Moss to five catches for 62 yards, Dallas’ Terrell Owens to 49 yards on four receptions and Tampa Bay’s Joey Galloway to one catch for 9 yards.
Green Bay’s Donald Driver had five receptions for 141 yards with a 90-yard touchdown in the NFC Championship game, but Webster got the catch that counted most when he intercepted Brett Favre on the second play of overtime. That led to a game-winning field goal that put the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Webster’s career has taken off since then. After intercepting just six passes in his first five seasons, he’s had 14 in the last three with a career-high six picks in 2011 and four each this season and in 2010.
“He stepped up that year and really was integral in what we were doing at the end there,” said Spagnuolo.
Considering the last two Super Bowl champions have won it all with regular-season records of 10-6 and 9-7, respectively, the Saints are holding out hope that they can do the same.
The Saints need to win all four of their games to finish 9-7, although that won’t guarantee them of a playoff spot — much less a Super Bowl berth.
The least they can do is draw inspiration from the team they’ll face Sunday. The Giants finished 9-7 a year ago and won the Super Bowl despite barely getting into the postseason.
“They’ve played in these types of games,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “They’re playoff games before the playoffs. It’s the situation we’re in.”
Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said only two players — T Charles Brown (knee) and CB Corey White (knee) — did not participate in Thursday’s practice.
White, who missed two games with a knee injury before returning to play on special teams in their last outing at Atlanta was added to the injury list after having full participation Wednesday.
After being limited Wednesday, SS Roman Harper (rib) had full participation on Thursday.
WR Hakeem Nicks (knee) was added to the Giants’ injury report on Thursday after practicing fully during a light Wednesday practice.
Not participating for the second straight day were RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), S Kenny Phillips (knee), S Tyler Sash (hamstring) and TE Travis Beckum (knee), while LB Michael Boley (shoulder) and LB Jacquian Williams (knee) were limited.
Saints running back Mark Ingram, a second-year pro who has battled injuries since joining the team as a first-round draft pick in 2011, has been voted by teammates as the 2012 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
Each NFL team votes for a player, coach or member of the organization that overcomes adversity — on or off the field — to succeed.
Ingram had foot and toe injuries in 2011 and this May underwent knee surgery, but was back in time for training camp. He will be honored along with the winners from the other 31 teams at the Ed Block Courage Award Banquet this spring in Baltimore.
After being crushed by the Saints in their last two visits to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — 48-27 in 2009 and 49-24 last season — Giants guard Chris Snee said he is happy to get a shot at the Saints in the Meadowlands on Sunday.
“We’ve had zero success (in New Orleans),” said Snee, the son-in-law of Giants coach Tom Coughlin. “It’s one of those games where we were down quick and the crowd got into it.
“I heard that song (“Stand Up and Get Crunk!”) play over and over again,” he said. “I don’t know the name of it. That’s a tough place to play ... it’s very tough. It’s nice that we don’t have to go down there.”
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