Here we go again.

Last week, Asante Samuel suffered a setback on Thursday when he was downgraded as a nonparticipant after practicing the day before on a limited basis. The end result was that he did not play Sunday against the Cowboys.

This week, the Eagles' cornerback opened up preparation for Sunday's game at the New York Giants by participating in a full practice on Wednesday. But by Thursday, his involvement in practice was limited, leaving Samuel's game-day status up in the air.

That is progress. But the cornerback, who still leads the NFL with seven interceptions despite missing the last three games, was once again coy about his chances of being ready.

"I feel good," Samuel said. "Every day is a better day."

The Eagles have gone 3-1 when Samuel has not played this season, but his absence has been felt. The pass defense has given up a significantly larger number of yards and touchdowns when he has not played. In four games, opposing quarterbacks have tossed 15 touchdowns when Samuel isn't in the lineup. In the nine games in which he has played, the number is 11.

"I got to get back out there, man," Samuel said after he was informed of this stat.

Joselio Hanson has started in Samuel's place and received assistance from rookie Trevard Lindley.

"Having Asante back, or in the hopes of having Asante back, is a big thing for us. . . . We just need to make sure he's healthy and can cut it loose," Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said.

Samuel's last appearance was against the Giants last month when he picked off quarterback Eli Manning two times.

Tackle Winston Justice (knee) was a partial participant in practice for the second straight day. If he can't play for the second straight week, King Dunlap will once again start at right tackle. Linebacker Keenan Clayton (hamstring) did not practice again.

Graham optimistic

Brandon Graham, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Sunday, said he will have reconstructive knee surgery Tuesday and that he anticipates returning in time for the start of next season.

"I know I'll be back," the rookie defensive end said.

Renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews will perform the surgery, which Graham said will require five or six months of rehabilitation.

"It's not that long, but it's on me when I really come back," Graham said. "I got to put in the work."

The Eagles' top draft pick was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, ending his season after 13 games and three sacks.

"This was a great rookie season in my eyes because I got some experience going into next year," Graham said.

The Eagles brought back Derrick Burgess to fill Graham's spot on the roster. The Eagles' pass rush has only seven sacks in the last four games, but McDermott said that's because opposing offenses have kept more blockers in.

"When a team is keeping seven men in to protect or getting the ball out fast like the Cowboys were doing, it's physically, sometimes, impossible to get there by the time the ball gets out," he said.

Manning has been sacked only 13 times all season and only once in the last six weeks.

Extra points

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick reiterated comments he made Tuesday that he wants to once again own a dog. "My kids ask me every day. So I feel bad. It's something I want to do. . . . Hopefully, one day, I'll get that opportunity." Vick is not permitted to own a dog due to his conviction for dogfighting. . . . The Eagles brought back running back Joique Bell to their practice squad and once again cut tight end Cornelius Ingram.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.
Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane.