EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – COVID-19 tests, the flu, schedule changes, and players going on the reserve list have dominated the Giants' news this week, but Joe Judge said the team's focus remains where it always is, on the next game. In this case, that is Sunday in MetLife Stadium against the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys.
"It's been football for us the entire week," Judge said. "I don't have any control over an illness. We coach who we have available to us. We get those players ready and prepared, so it is what it is. We've known from the beginning. Same thing as last year, the games are going to go on. Whoever you have, you have to have them ready."
But accomplishing that has been a more challenging task the last few days. Today's developments included two more positive tests, reducing to five the number of healthy defensive backs on the roster, a flu outbreak, a walkthrough in lieu of the scheduled full practice, a change made "out of an abundance of caution," and Zoom meetings after the players were sent home early.
The latest players to test positive were safety J.R. Reed and practice squad cornerback Natrell Jamerson. The Giants have nine players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, including eight with positive tests and one close contact.
The other positives are cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Aaron Robinson, linebackers Cam Brown and Xavier McKinney, and wide receivers Kadarius Toney and John Ross. Safety Xavier McKinney is the close contact. But if he continues to test negative, he will rejoin the team tomorrow and play Sunday against Dallas.
"We're talking through a lot of moves that could happen defensively and schematically, things we have to do to make sure we can adjust," Judge said. "Right now, there are some things in the air. We'll know a little bit more tomorrow in terms of guys like Zay when his five days of testing are up and see where he's at. We'll go ahead and make any necessary adjustments we have to. I'm about to meet with the defense in a little bit and go through some different adjustments that could take place."
Until McKinney returns, the Giants' secondary consists of only five players: cornerbacks James Bradberry and Keion Crossen and safeties Logan Ryan, Julian Love and Steven Parker (who missed practice with a non-COVID illness). Jarren Williams will certainly be signed off the practice squad. He might play the cornerback spot opposite Bradberry, where Jackson started the first 11 games and Robinson the last two when Jackson was inactive with a quad injury.
"The Cowboys aren't going to care about how many DBs we've," Ryan said. "We've really got to be prepared to go play the game and go win the game. Whatever the task is, I know we're going to go at it 100 percent and give our best effort."
Regarding the other players on the list, Judge said, "I wouldn't say it's impossible (for them to play), but we're planning at this moment not to have them."
The NFL yesterday announced revised mandates for teams to meet remotely, outdoors, or in indoor practice bubbles with ample spacing available. They also limit the number of players who can be in the weight room at one time and prohibit group meals at team facilities.
The Giants' day began with the players gathering for position meetings in the fieldhouse adjacent to the practice fields, which has been used for meetings since the onset of COVID in 2020.
"As the meetings are starting, we're getting alerts on a couple of new positives that came up today along with several players who came up with flu symptoms," Judge said. "At that time, we deemed the best thing for the players was to end the meetings. We went immediately outside, we did a brief walkthrough that lasted about a half-hour outside with the players masked and spaced out when they weren't involved. When that was done, we sent them home, and then we Zoomed for about an hour and a half.
"We'll bring the players back in here tomorrow more in the afternoon, which will take the place of our Saturday meetings. We won't do anything at the hotel tomorrow. We'll just meet here, we'll have a brief walkthrough on the field, we'll make sure that everybody's in an environment where it's spaced out and open-air, all that stuff. We'll continue with our process of getting ready for the game."
The flu symptoms an undisclosed number of players have had present another complication.
"It's flu season and things go around," Judge said. "We're wearing masks in the building, we talk to our guys all the time about being smart about who you interact with outside of the building. It's just common sense this time of year. None of our guys have really done anything that we would call foolish or anything that's putting themselves at risk other than just living a normal life."
"The guys that come in with symptoms, sometimes they can go out and practice, sometimes they Zoom in for meetings and stay isolated from the team, sometimes they go home and get rest and then stay in through the post-practice film through Zoom. It's always different, but there have been cases of guys who wanted to get IV's or pumping their body full of fluids, coming over it quick. A lot of the guys come in the next day and feel a lot better. I'm getting a lot of those reports from these guys. You've just got to be aware of when it comes up, you're looking to avoid it spreading throughout the building."
Judge said none of the quarterbacks have contracted the flu. The offense is preparing to play a third consecutive game with Mike Glennon at quarterback in place of Daniel Jones, who has a neck injury. Jake Fromm will again be the backup.
Although he was in the NFL concussion protocol last week, Glennon had two relatively normal weeks of preparation. But this week has been anything but customary.
Glennon spoke earlier this week about potential schedule disruptions.
"Meetings aren't as big of a deal, I think we learned that last year," Glennon said. "You can get away with doing the meetings virtually. It's really the practice time where – if we could do virtual meetings at home and come in and practice, then obviously our routines will be a little thrown off, but that's not as big of a deal now. …But if practice were to be canceled obviously that would be a bigger deal, to not be able to go out and practice."
The Giants might not know about the availability of some players until Sunday morning. But those who will be in uniform can't worry about that.
"You've got to figure it out," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "We have guys that stay at home that we can use if we have to, but I guess we'll worry about that when we get there. It's no fun having guys having to sit out. It's kind of what we're living in at this point."
View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their NFC East matchup against the Cowboys.
*The Giants' injury report lists Jones as out, guard Ben Bredeson doubtful with an ankle injury, and three players as questionable: wide receiver Sterling Shepard (quad) and defensive linemen Leonard Williams (triceps) and Austin Johnson (foot).
*The Giants activated defensive tackle David Moa from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement. Moa played seven snaps on defense and one on special teams in his NFL debut vs. Carolina on Oct. 24, his only appearance of the season.
*The Giants signed veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith to their practice squad.
Smith, 6-2 and 235 pounds, was a second-round draft choice by Dallas in 2016, No. 34 overall. He did not play that year after tearing two ligaments in his knee playing in the Fiesta Bowl for Notre Dame against Ohio State. From 2017-21, he played in 68 regular-season games with 56 starts and started two postseason games for the Cowboys, who released him on Oct. 6. Smith was signed the next day by the Green Bay Packers, for whom he played two games before he was cut on Nov. 2.
Smith's career totals include 579 tackles (397 solo), 9.0 sacks two interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.