This shapes up as a pivotal year for New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.

He's aware he needs to be healthy as he heads into the final year of his rookie deal.

And Nicks is slated to return to practice today after missing time with a groin pull.

Of course, Nicks has never had a season where he has played in every game.

"It's important," Nicks told ESPN New York. "My career counts on it, this season counts on it. The offense, just being what I am to the team, I think it is going to make a big difference."

Last season, foot and knee injuries limited him to 53 catches for 692 yards and three touchdowns.

Nicks skipped offseason workouts.

No contract is imminent for Nicks, who saw the Giants reward Victor Cruz.

Nicks prefers to play it out and see what happens.

"This is a critical season for me," Nicks said.  "I just look at it like I am going out here to play ball. Stay healthy, change my diet a little bit, those are things that I am focused on. I just want to have fun and win every game if we can. That is the main focus.

"I know the situation. I am the one wearing these shoes. So to all the fans, it is not about me being lazy or anything like that. It is about making the right decisions, about making sure that when it is time to go for the season-opening game, I will be full ready to go and it will be on and going from there. I know the way I am going to play this game. And I am going to be playing it for a long time."

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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun