EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Pro Bowl middle linebacker Antonio Pierce vowed to play for the New York Giants against the Detroit Lions despite nagging ``little headaches'' from a concussion suffered last weekend.
``If I ain't totally broke and I can play and run, I should be out there, and I think I will be,'' Pierce said Thursday after missing his second straight day of practice for Sunday's game in Detroit.
Pierce refused to say whether the medical staff had cleared him to practice, noting that he had cleared himself to work out on Friday.
``That's always the most important day of the week for us, Friday and Saturday,'' Pierce said. ``That's when we make sure we know exactly what we want to do. I know the coaches want to make sure I know what I'm doing.''
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Pierce's condition had improved in recent days.
``I think he will probably work tomorrow,'' Coughlin said. ``But they are going to be very cautious, obviously. He feels a lot better. You can tell by the expression on his face that he is doing better.''
Pierce was injured in the third quarter of Sunday's 31-20 loss to the Cowboys. He left the field for a play and returned, finishing with six tackles.
It seemed as though nothing was wrong until he didn't practice Wednesday because of headaches. Pierce called them minor, but he said his first concussion alarmed him.
``Everybody has it,'' said Pierce, who shares the team lead in tackles with safety Gibril Wilson. ``I think I've been lucky over seven years not to have any injuries like that. It's scary. When I was in the game I couldn't focus. I couldn't get my eyes right. That was kind of unique for me. But everything else has been the same, little headaches. A little pestering thing you have going on. It will go away.''
If Pierce is unable to play, third-year linebacker Chase Blackburn would start. Blackburn has started only two games, but he has played well when given the opportunity. He had five tackles and a sack in the wild-card playoff game against Philadelphia last season playing in nickel situations.
``When you are out there with the ones and running defensive reps, you get more excited and more built up because you want them to have confidence in you,'' said Blackburn, who also would replace Pierce in making the calls for the linebackers and the defensive fronts.
Pierce, however, expects to be filling that role for what has become a showdown of two 6-3 teams trying to claim the NFC's third-best record.
``Everyone said last week was a big one,'' Pierce said of the Dallas game. ``This is another big game. These last seven games are crucial for us because we want to be in the playoffs and go into this playoff stretch on fire, not like we were last year or years before.''
Seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan said Pierce would play, even if the defense had to tie a bag of ice to his head to get him healthy.
``He is our guy,'' Strahan said. ``It is weird to look in the huddle and not see him there. Not saying that we don't have any faith in the guys who come in when he is not there, but there is just something about Antonio where you feel like when he is in there you are safe. He knows what is going on, he is going to give you the right keys, the right reads, and the right calls to be successful.''
Pierce also realizes he has to be smart about his health.
``I'm only 29 and I plan on living for a long time,'' he said. ``It's one of those things you take day by day. I did. I feel better today.''
Receiver Plaxico Burress (ankle), halfback Derrick Ward (ankle) and receiver Steve Smith (hamstring) also didn't practice for the second straight day.
Burress had had a season-long problem with his ankle. It has prevented him from practicing most of the season, but he has not missed a game and leads the team with eight touchdown catches.

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