EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Because they conducted just a walkthrough, the Giants today released an injury report that was "an estimation of what players would have done if the team had practiced."
It still could not hide the unpleasant news it contained.
The three players who did not participate are among the team's most important offensive contributors, the top available players at their positions when the Giants took the field yesterday to play the Minnesota Vikings: running back Wayne Gallman, wide receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. Gallman and Shepard are in the NFL concussion protocol and Engram has a knee injury.
Among the better news is that two key players who missed the 28-10 loss to the Vikings were on the field. Running back Saquon Barkley and linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring) were limited.
But a complication exists: the Giants face the 5-0 Patriots on Thursday night in New England, so injured players must make a rapid recovery to return to the field.
"It's something that you have to deal with," coach Pat Shurmur said. "Every team has to deal with one of those short weeks. We'll do the very best we can to get as many players back as quickly as possible so that they are able to play Thursday."
Engram seems to be the most likely to play among those who sat out today. Shurmur said the team's leader with 33 receptions has, "just a little game soreness. We'll just see how he does as the week progresses." Shurmur did not know if Engram will practice tomorrow.
Shepard has his second concussion of the young season. He suffered one in the opener at Dallas and did not play the following week against Buffalo. Shepard was forced to leave the field yesterday, was examined and returned to action. He displayed symptoms of a concussion to the medical staff this morning and was placed in the concussion protocol. There is no prognosis for his return.
"He's in the protocol, we'll try to get him back," Shurmur said. "He'll be back on the field when (the medical staff) say it's time."
Shepard leads the team's wideouts with 25 catches for 267 yards and one touchdown.
"He's obviously a key piece of what we do," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "He's been a big-time playmaker for us until this point, but we're confident in the guys we've got. I think when you look at how some of those guys have played and stepped up, I think we've got guys who are ready to go and ready to make plays. So, we're confident and I know those guys will be ready."
Without Shepard, the Giants' healthy receivers are Golden Tate, Cody Latimer, rookie Darius Slayton and Cody Core. Tate made his debut yesterday after missing the first four games while serving an NFL suspension. He caught three passes for 13 yards and returned a punt 17 yards.
"We were trying at times to get him the ball the other night," Shurmur said. "Obviously, there will be more opportunities for Golden this week."
If they choose, the Giants could re-sign Bennie Fowler or TJ Jones, the two receivers they released last week. They know the offense. But adding one of them would require removing someone from the roster.
"We'll just have to see if that's a move we're going to make," Shurmur said. "If not, we've got four healthy receivers at this point."
Barkley has missed two games since spraining his ankle in the victory at Tampa Bay on Sept. 22. Shurmur said, "there's a possibility" Barkley could play Thursday night. But the Giants won't rush him back, even with his replacement, Gallman, sidelined. That would leave rookie free agent Jon Hilliman and Eli Penny as the only healthy running backs.
"We'll just do what's best for the team, and we'll put him (Barkley) out there when he's able to play at a high level and protect himself," Shurmur said. "We'll decide that as we go here."
Adding a player at that position is also a possibility, but a newcomer would have to learn the offense in about a day.
"We are going to do what we can to be ready to play with the running backs we have," Shurmur said. "Maybe it's the guy that's on our practice squad, maybe it's a guy outside the building. We'll just keep going through that process."
Throughout the spring, the Giants envisioned having a quartet of offensive playmakers in Barkley, Shepard, Tate and Engram. That group has not all been on the field at the same time even once. And no one can predict when they will.
"It's tough, because it's hard to reach your potential when you don't have everybody out there," Tate said. "It's unfortunate, but then again it's also football. That's what we sign up for and you never know when injuries are going to happen."
Ogletree and fellow linebacker Tae Davis (concussion) have each missed the last two games. Davis worked fully today.
"We are hopeful that they'll be back," Shurmur said. "They've made good progress coming back from their injuries, so we'll just have to see what the week brings." He later added Ogletree "looked good. We're hopeful he'll be ready to roll."
The Giants will have to be, no matter who is in or out of uniform on Thursday night.
*In addition to Barkley and Ogletree, tackle Nate Solder (ankle) and linebackers Lorenzo Carter (neck) and Josiah Tauaefa (knee) were limited. Carter was inactive yesterday.
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