EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It was a vintage Golden Tate play, with the precise route-running, disciplined footwork, and sure hands that have helped him catch 611 regular-season passes in nine NFL seasons.
Midway through the first quarter last night in Gillette Stadium, Tate slipped past Patriots cornerback Keion Crossen, veered to the sideline and smoothly caught Daniel Jones' perfectly-thrown ball for a 23-yard gain.
"I felt like I was at home," said Tate, the only projected starter to play in the Giants' 31-29 victory in the preseason finale. "I love the game of football. Any time I have a chance to go out there and make an impact on the game or make a few plays, I'm all for it. I was happy to play.
"I'm just thankful for the opportunity that I had to make a few plays in the short time I was there and show the coaches that I'm able to do a lot of things to help this team win. Two targets, two catches (for 37 yards), pretty good day for me. Gives them something to think about for the next four weeks."
Unfortunately for Tate and the Giants, that's how long he must sit out before returning to the field. One of the team's major offseason acquisitions, Tate will miss the season's first four games, including the Sept. 8 opener in Dallas, after being suspended without pay for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. He must stay away from the team until Sept. 30, and he is eligible to make his Giants debut on Oct. 6 at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
"I have spoken with Golden Tate all along as to what his plans are, and we'll keep those private," coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's going to have to leave the building for a month, and he'll be off training and doing what he can do. We'll get him back when we can get him back."
Tate said he tested positive for clomiphene, which was in a fertility drug that he took. He learned after the test that it is one of the substances that is banned by the NFL. Tate's appeal of the suspension was denied.
"I just hope these four weeks fly by," Tate said. "I'm excited to just get back on the field and be around these guys. I'll say this, it being taken away from me is definitely going to light a fire under me. It's definitely going to make me appreciate the game, the camaraderie and being in the locker room so much more now that I don't have it for a few weeks."
Tate will spend his month in exile at his home in San Diego, where he will train and keep tabs on the Giants.
"In my mind, he's going to be gone for a month," Shurmur said. "I have spoken to him at length a couple of times about what he plans to do and I'm aware of that. We'll just look forward to getting him back when we can."
Tate has been the playoffs six times in his career, and he was part of the Seahawks team that routed Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium. When he returns for the final 12 games, his goal will be to help lead the Giants to postseason play.
"I'm expecting to come back, help this team make a playoff push, just continue to fit right in and continue to make plays along with the other guys," Tate said. "We have a bunch of playmakers, and I'm going to come in and make my fair share of plays along with Sterling (Shepard), Cody (Latimer), Bennie (Fowler), Russ (Shepard), Zo (Alonzo Russell), Sa (Saquon Barkley), Wayne (Gallman), Hilly (Jon Hilliman), and all the rest of the guys. Just want to come in and fit right in the offense."
Tate said he is "absolutely" excited about the potential of his new team.
"After going through camp with these guys, seeing the fire that we have, being down tonight against the champs and coming back and finding a way to win the game, that has to excite you," he said. "We want to start strong next week. Of course, it's going to be without me. But I have a lot of confidence in these guys and the coaches and what we want to do."
He just has to wait for an opportunity to do it himself.