He took slow steps as he walked towards the podium and his postgame press conference, and as Andre Brown climbed the stairs, he held his back like an old man. He knew he’d be sore after his first NFL game in nearly a year, but even this was more than he ever expected.

“I carried it 30 times?” the 26-year-old said when someone told him his statistics. “It felt like 50.”
He wasn’t complaining, of course. Brown has waited a long time to be this sore after a game, and he’s been through more than most running backs while waiting for his chance. He’s been cut by five NFL teams, he’s rehabbed from a ruptured Achilles, battled back from a broken left leg only to break it in exactly the same spot again.

So if he had to spend a little longer in the cold tub on Sunday night or has to show up early for some treatment on Monday, so be it. Brown may be hurting, but in some ways, he’s never felt better. And after his career-high 30 carries and 115 yards in the Giants’ win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, he proved to his teammates that he was worth the wait.

“For him coming back this season and getting hurt, it was tough,” said guard David Diehl. “You could see how much it hurt him. I mean, talk about a guy that’s mentally tough and strong and can fight back. He gave us a huge boost today. It was awesome.”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt this is very rewarding and very satisfying,” Coughlin added. “Perseverance does pay off. And he’s a guy who has persevered.”

That’s an understatement for the Giants’ fourth-round pick in 2009. He hadn’t played in an NFL game since Nov. 25, 2012, when he first broke his left fibula and broke it again in exactly the same spot in the Giants' preseason finale back in August. He hadn’t carried more than 13 times in a game since a 20-carry, 113-yard game in Carolina on Sept. 20, 2012. In fact that’s the only time he carried more than 13 times in a game in his career.

So no, he wasn’t exactly expecting to work on Sunday as much as he did when he got 30 of the Giants’ 35 rushing attempts. He talked all week about how he was being prepared for a “limited” role, which made sense since he’s been on the injured reserve list for the better part of a year.