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Larry Donnell impressing coaches in return from injury

Posted Jul 30, 2016

TE Larry Donnell looked impressive at Training Camp practice Saturday:     

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Everyone wanted to see the Giants’ high-profile wide receivers perform in public today, so naturally tight end Larry Donnell all but stole the show.

Donnell made several catches in the first training camp workout fans were permitted to attend. It was a satisfying performance for a player who missed the second half of the 2015 season with a neck injury.

“It always feels good to be back on that green grass,” Donnell said. “For me, the season ended too short, so it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to get back out there and really just run around and get ready for the real swing of things. It felt good and I’m excited.”

So are his coaches and teammates.

“He made a couple of plays down the middle of the field,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “Winning down the middle of the field is huge for this offense, and he’s someone that could definitely do that for us. He laid out and made a real nice catch on the second one he came up with. Earlier in the period, he caught one down the middle in good rhythm and timing from Eli (Manning), so it was nice to see Larry bounce back and make some plays.”

>> WATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM PRACTICE

Fellow tight end Will Tye said he’s happy to have Donnell back.

“He was definitely missed,” Tye said. “He pushes me and I push him. It’s good competition. It was different for me (when Donnell was sidelined). He brings that different type of presence in the meetings. If I had a question, I had to ask coach, when normally I’ll just turn and ask him.”


Donnell had a breakout season as a second-year pro in 2014, when he caught 63 passes for 623 yards and six touchdowns. He was enjoying another productive year (29 receptions for 223 yards and two scores) when he landed awkwardly after making a catch at New Orleans on Nov. 1. Donnell was inactive for four games before he was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Dec. 8.

“At first, it was a tough pill to swallow, but it was best for my health,” he said. “It was tough to watch the games, because that was the first time I’ve missed a game since I’ve been here.”

Although Donnell always believed he would return to the field, he first had to endure a challenging rehabilitation and get clearance from the team’s medical staff.

“Before I put cleats on again,” Donnell said, “I made sure my neck was healed to the point where I did not have to worry about it getting injured further. That was my main focus. I didn’t catch a football or put cleats on until that was healed.

“It’s a blessing to still be here and still play. It was meant to be. My goal is to just stay healthy and help this team and make plays so that we can contribute.”

>> READ: PRACTICE REPORT

 He certainly got off to a good start in training camp.

“It felt good just to come back out here with a helmet on,” he said. “I was out for some time, so it just felt good to be able to come back out here and just stretch and put the jersey on again and see the fans. It felt good to get my hands on some footballs and make some plays.”

Donnell and Tye are part of what should be a lively competition at tight end. In the offseason, the Giants added veteran free agent Will Johnson and sixth-round draft choice Jerell Adams. Matt LaCosse, who played briefly last season, and rookie free agent Ryan Malleck are also in the mix.

“We’re going to keep the best players,” McAdoo said. “We’re not going to hold ourselves hostage on what type of numbers we want at different spots. We told those guys the numbers are going to fluctuate based on how they perform. We’re not going to hold ourselves to four, five tight ends. I think we were the first team in the league in Green Bay in 2011 to have five (tight ends) active. I think it was 2011, one of those years, so if we have five, we’ll keep five; if not, we’ll keep less. We’re going to keep the best players we can keep.”

McAdoo won’t hesitate to line up with two tight ends on the field at the same time, even with Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and Sterling Shepard at wide receiver.

“Sure. Why not,” he responded. “Again, we’re going to play our players. The guys who earn playing time are the guys that are going to play.”

After his enforced time off, Donnell intends to be one of those guys.

“That’s definitely my goal,” he said. “I want to continue to get better and help the team whenever I can.”