Collins will go to bat to keep Hilliard

After sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury in the final year of his contract, wide receiver Ike Hilliard possibly has played his last game as a Giant.

Quarterback Kerry Collins hopes not. In fact, he's prepared to do as much as he can to make sure Hilliard is re-signed.

"I'll go to bat for Ike Hilliard any day of the week. Any day of the week," Collins said yesterday. "And I'll walk upstairs (to the front office) and tell them that."

Collins values Hilliard as his most dependable target, both as a route-runner and as someone who will make the tough catch. Hilliard, who was placed on injured reserve yesterday, has been particularly reliable on third down, ranking third in the NFC. Hilliard caught 27 passes for 386 yards and two touchdowns this season. On third down, he had 12 catches for 176 yards and a score.

"(Front-office personnel) will know how I feel about Ike, and it's very strong," Collins said.

Hilliard will require surgery in the coming weeks after receiving a vicious hit from Eagles safety Brian Dawkins on Monday night. The ball was overthrown and had hit the ground by the time Dawkins leveled Hilliard, dislocating his right shoulder and tearing his labrum and pectoral muscle.

Yesterday, the NFL assessed Dawkins a $50,000 fine "for misuse of his helmet." Dawkins drew a flag for unnecessary roughness but was not thrown out of the game.

The size of the fine is most notable because it is Dawkins' first such helmet infraction on a defenseless player in his seven-year career. Usually, the league increases its punishment with each subsequent violation. NFL director of football operations Gene Washington emphasized that any future misuse of the helmet by Dawkins likely would lead to increased disciplinary action up to and including suspension.
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