Before Saturday’s practice, coach Pat Shurmur and players met the media at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The Giants’ wide receivers were once again the center of attention as training camp rolls along.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Golden Tate appeals suspension. Tate will appeal the four-game suspension he is facing for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. The veteran receiver released a statement Saturday morning that said he and his wife saw a specialist for fertility planning this past April and, as a result, he took a prescription that he later discovered did contain an ingredient on the league’s banned substance list. According to Tate, he immediately discontinued use and reported the situation to the independent administrator of the NFL’s policy. Coach Pat Shurmur spoke shortly after the statement was released, saying he didn’t have much to add to what Tate shared.
“For him right now, it’s business as usual,” Shurmur said. “He’s out there practicing and getting ready to play. This really is between him and the league at this point. As an organization, we’ll deal with it as it comes down the road.”
2. Giants add two receivers, place Corey Coleman on Injured Reserve. The news about Tate came on the heels of a tough stretch for the wide receiver room, which lost Coleman to a torn ACL. Sterling Shepard (thumb) and rookie fifth-round draft pick Darius Slayton (hamstring) have also been sidelined.
As general manager Dave Gettleman alluded to yesterday, the Giants held workouts on Saturday to restock the position and signed Amba Etta-Tawo, who spent time on the Giants’ practice squad last season, and TJ Jones, who played in 42 games with nine starts for the Lions over the past four seasons. Jones, who is also an experienced punt and kickoff returner, has 64 career receptions for 814 yards and four touchdowns in his career. To make room on the roster, the Giants placed Coleman on injured reserve and waived kicker Joey Slye.
3. Sterling Shepard relieved to avoid surgery. While good news is a relative term for Giants wide receivers these days, Shepard was relieved to avoid surgery after fracturing the his left thumb in the first practice of training camp. He was running a curl route when the ball hit the tip of his thumb and he knew right away it was broken. A day after it happened, Shepard was back on the field and running during individual drills. Coaches even threw tennis balls at him when they worked on routes with the quarterbacks.
“I want to be around the guys,” said Shepard, who broke and re-broke the same thumb in high school. “I don’t want to just sit there all through camp. My legs work perfectly fine, so I can do everything but catch the ball.”
Shepard hopes to get out of the splint in a “couple weeks” and be able to catch the ball again.
“I was pretty relieved (to avoid surgery),” Shepard said. “Now I give myself a shot to play Week 1 and also I get to get out there and catch the ball, hopefully, in a couple weeks. I’m listening to the trainers and doing everything they have me doing.”
4. Bethea’s 35*th birthday gift? Giants go full pads.* Safety Antoine Bethea has shown no signs of slowing down as he turned 35 on Saturday. With 13 seasons, three Pro Bowl nods and a Super Bowl championship under his belt, Bethea joined the Giants’ new-look secondary this offseason after playing a team-high 1,111 snaps and tallying a career-high 100 solo tackles last year in Arizona. To celebrate, he took a nap before the Giants put the full pads on for the first time this season. Bethea said his teammates haven’t kidded him yet because he gets “enough of that” when it’s not his birthday.
“They show respect,” Bethea said. “A little jab here and there, but it comes with it.”
Second-year defensive lineman B.J. Hill, who just turned 24 in April, is one of those players showing respect. He said, “Oh yeah, out on the field, for sure. Yeah, he’s still got it.”
The only number, however, that Bethea cares about is improving the Giants’ defensive ranking. Earlier in the week, linebacker Alec Ogletree said there’s no reason it can’t be top 10, if not top five. Bethea backed up Ogletree, who was in a similar position last year. Like Bethea, Ogletree was new to the Giants but became an immediate leader as a veteran of the NFL.
“I think we could be one of the tops in the league,” Bethea said. “Obviously, the guys that have been here have been in their second year under the defense. Myself, along with some other guys, being the first year coming in, plugging in, and making it happen.”
5. Russell Shepard looks to write a new Cinderella story. Russell Shepard, one of the most positive and talkative players on the roster, wants to spin the current wide receiver situation into a positive. He knows it’s a big opportunity for himself and the rest of his teammates fighting for reps. He seized it yesterday with a handful of highlight catches in practice.
“We are definitely a better team with Golden Tate, but we definitely can (sustain losing him),” Russell Shepard said. “I remember one particular game last year, we went into the Redskins game (in Week 14) … but we had a bunch of guys that nobody knew about. We went up 40-0 in the first half. You just have to put your minds together, put your hard hats on and go to work. Just show what you can do. Like I said, at the end of the day, we’re all pros, we’re here for a reason, and we can make this sort of a Cinderella story, as they say.”
Russell Shepard and Bennie Fowler caught two of Eli Manning’s three touchdown passes in that 40-16 victory at Washington as Odell Beckham Jr. was sidelined. Sterling Shepard caught the other.