EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Corey Webster lost his job as a starting cornerback with the New York Giants, not his confidence.
Right now, that's a big plus for Tom Coughlin and the Giants heading into an NFC wild-card game against the Buccaneers in Tampa on Sunday.
With starter Sam Madison's status uncertain because of a pulled stomach muscle and backup Kevin Dockery still bothered by a hip flexor problem, Webster might start this weekend for the first time since mid-September.
``I have been playing the last couple of weeks and every time an opportunity comes to showcase what you can do, it's great to get out there and play and have fun with the rest of the team,'' Webster said.
This season has not been entirely fun for Webster, a second-round draft pick three years ago. The former LSU product started the first three games, but lost his starting job to rookie Aaron Ross at halftime of the third game, which was against Washington on Sept. 23.
Webster was relegated to playing in the dime package and on special teams for the next five games. He got a big surprise when the second half of the season opened at home against Dallas and he was inactive.
During the next four games, he played on special teams in three games and was inactive for another. Webster didn't start playing in the secondary again until the 14th game, seeing some action at cornerback.
Webster never stopped working.
``A lot of people may have, but I didn't,'' Webster said. ``It's not in my character to do it. I'm always prepared. Everything happens for a reason. You just have to keep getting better, grinding, enduring and do whatever you can to help yourself out.''
Webster's persistence paid off when Dockery was sidelined by his hip injury in the penultimate game against Buffalo. He got to play in the nickel package and iced the Giants' playoff-clinching win with a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown, the first of his NFL career.
``Whenever you get a chance to put your hands on the ball, it always gives you tremendous confidence going into the next game,'' Webster said. ``I took the Buffalo game and tried to build on it. The same thing with the New England game. I did a good job of flying around and having fun.''
Madison, hurt in last weekend's game against New England, has spent a lot of time working with Webster this week. It's not unusual. This is a close-knit group that stays together off the field.
Madison did not practice this week and he was uncertain whether he would play Sunday, noting it will be a last-minute decision. He was confident Webster would be able to replace him, especially after his big play against Buffalo.
``A year ago, he was my counterpart, a starter,'' Madison said. ``He had surgery (in the offseason), and it was a setback. We had young guys come in and play well and it put him on the back burner. No matter what we have asked him to do, special teams or whatever, he has been there for us.''
Webster will likely be there to do it on Sunday, and he intends to play with confidence.
``I never lost it,'' he said.
Notes: Linebacker Kawika Mitchell, who sprained a medial collateral ligament in his left knee last Saturday, practiced on a limited basis. He plans to test the knee on Sunday and make a decision on whether to play. Gerris Wilkinson would start at weakside linebacker if Mitchell cannot play. ... Center Shaun O'Hara, who also sprained a knee last weekend, didn't practice this week. Greg Ruegamer will replace him if he cannot play.

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