Since then Austin's been kept off the field because of bad judgement (he was suspended for the entire 2010 season by the NCAA for rules violations) and injury (a torn pectoral as a rookie in 2011).
After missing the season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys with a sore back, there's a chance Austin could finally make his NFL debut Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That could be a game changer for a defensive tackle rotation that appeared to slow down in Week 1.
“The trainers are going to do what's the smartest thing for the player, which is myself, and I want to do what's the smartest thing for the team,” Austin said.
Right now that would be playing and providing some depth for a unit that appeared to wear down against the Cowboys. Case in point: Dallas RB DeMarco Murray was held to under three yards per carry on his first eight rushing attempts, but averaged over 9 yards per carry on his last 12 attempts.
The Giants don't need not look far to find where the culpability lies. The absence of DT Chris Canty (knee, PUP) and free agent acquisition Shaun Rogers (blood clot, IR) left the defensive line thin. A season ago, Canty and Linval Joseph would rotate with Bernard as well as defensive ends (Justin Tuck, Dave Tollefson, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora) to provide depth up front that provided fresh legs for most of the game.
That wasn't the case against the Cowboys..
“I don't think they got gassed,” Austin said Monday. “It was tough to sustain all of that for four quarters.”
Coach Tom Coughlin said the tackles “played okay” in Week 1, later improving his description to “solid.” But the fact is the Giants gave up 143 rushing yards.
If Austin is available Sunday, he'll help Bernard, Joseph and Markus Kuhn “get a breather.” The question is whether the Giants want to risk further injury at a position that is already depleted.
Austin says his back still isn't “all the way there,” but while the remaining pain is “subtle,” he knows he has to fight the urge to come back too quickly.
“It's kind of like, do I come back and play through a little bit," he said, "or do I just wait till I'm 100 percent?”