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Giants begin Raiders prep with 3 players in COVID protocol

JOE-JUDGE

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The pandemic unexpectedly intruded today on the Giants, who had to alter their first workday of the week because of COVID-19.

Coach Joe Judge announced the team had 13 positive results among those tested yesterday. That group included some players. All 13 were retested and the only positive in Round 2 was running backs coach Burton Burns, who turned 69 last week.

Three players missed practice today because they are in the NFL COVID protocol: running back Saquon Barkley (who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury), left guard Matt Skura and safety Xavier McKinney.

"It's a 2020-2021 NFL season," safety Logan Ryan said. "It's nothing new. We wear tracers every day, get COVID tested, so stuff like this comes up. Obviously, results have got to come back. I'm not going to speak too much on it, but we obviously had experience with this last season. It's been a different type of football these last couple of years. We've got to be able to adjust on the fly, so we're well-trained and versed in that. Whatever it has to be, we'll do whatever it is to keep everyone safe."

The 2-6 Giants will host the 5-2 Las Vegas Raiders Sunday before their Week 10 bye. Today, the Giants conducted a walkthrough, which was delayed about an hour because of the additional testing, so practice participation is an estimation.

Will today's news affect who is available for the game?

"That's all still to be determined," Judge said. "They're going through all the steps which takes about a day of going through it with the (athletic) trainers and the close contacts and the tracers and all that stuff. In terms of any answers as far as Sunday or even something that would lead into tomorrow's practice, we don't have any definite answers except for really Burton right now would be the only one."

Because of the plethora of positives, all players and coaches, as well as Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel in the organization, were tested today.

"We've been in masks all day," Judge said. "We've been spaced out. That's really our norm here as far as the spacing. The masks are new to everybody back in the building for this year, except for the unvaccinated players.

"There were 13 total positives and after the re-test, there was only one that was confirmed as being positive after the multiple other tests. … Burton remains out of the building. He's been in communication with our (athletic) trainers, with the league. He and his wife are in their condo right now. Obviously, we're checking on him to make sure his health's good and make sure he's okay. … He's in the meetings through Zoom. He's active. He's involved with the players."

"We obviously have experience with it last year," quarterback Daniel Jones said of the COVID-induced changes. "Just following the protocols, doing what we're supposed to do. I think we're all pretty experienced in it by now."

Judge said the Giants "do not have many" unvaccinated players. Vaccinated players and coaches who test positive but are asymptomatic can rejoin their team after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. If an unvaccinated person tests positive, the protocols from 2020 remain in effect. The player is isolated for 10 days and is permitted to return to duty if asymptomatic.

Several NFL teams have been affected by COVID this season. The Green Bay Packers announced today that Aaron Rodgers tested positive and will miss Sunday's game in Kansas City. Head coaches Kliff Kingsbury of Arizona and Matt Nagy of Chicago missed games last month after testing positive. The New Orleans Saints were without eight assistant coaches when they lost to Carolina in Week 2.

"I think when we saw some of the other teams go through it earlier in the year, you start prepping mentally yourself for what would happen," Judge said. "I think as a league, we watched the Saints situation because they lost a number of coaches on their staff and some other teams that dealt with some positives. I think the biggest thing early in this process, earlier in the year, was when it was the vaccinated players or coaches that were triggering the positives. That was the first thing I think that just for everybody was – the initial image is, 'Well, I'm vaccinated, I can't get it.' The education of it is, no, you can get it, it just reduces the symptoms, the chances of getting sick and all the things behind it.

"For us, there are protocols that you have to follow, you still have to be careful outside of this building. We have to understand that different than last year, there's a lot more life going in. We talk about last year, the guys leaving the building, there weren't a lot of options. There weren't restaurants. There weren't different things open. This year, you walk out, no one's wearing – or masks are limited, I'd say, publicly. Things are much more wide open. Guys are going about life. I would say we don't have guys breaking protocols, doing anything illegal or wrong, but something as simple as going out and eating dinner with your teammates, last year that was obviously an issue throughout the entire league. That was something we had to watch internally and talk to some of our players about when things happened. This year, that's wide open. If you're vaccinated, you're allowed to do that. Now, the unvaccinated players, they understand what they are and aren't restricted to do and they have to follow those protocols inside and outside the building."

*In addition to those listed above, five players would not have practiced today (the Giants held walkthroughs today, so participation is projected): wide receivers Kenny Golladay (knee), Sterling Shepard (quad) and Dante Pettis (shoulder), linebacker Lorenzo Carter (ankle), and defensive back Nate Ebner (ankle).

*With injuries continuing to reduce their numbers at wide receiver and return specialist, the Giants today signed Pharoh Cooper, who has experience at both positions, to their practice squad. They also re-signed wideout Alex Bachman to the practice squad.

Cooper, 5-11 and 208 pounds, has not played this season. He was most recently with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who released him at the end of training camp.

From 2016-20, Cooper played in 62 regular-season games with six starts for the Rams, Cardinals and Bengals. He caught 55 passes for 506 yards and one touchdown. Cooper also averaged 8.9 yards on 82 punt returns and 24.2 yards on 104 kickoff returns, including a 103-yard touchdown for Los Angeles in 2017.

The Giants' top two punt returns this season, Jabrill Peppers and C.J. Board, are on injured reserve. Pettis stepped in last week but injured his shoulder the second time he was used as a returner. Board is the team's kickoff return leader.

*Bachman spent half the 2019 season and most of 2020 on the Giants' practice squad. He played in one game last season, Oct. 22 at Philadelphia. Bachman was with the Giants in training camp this year and was released on Sept. 2.

View photos of the New York Giants' active 53-man roster as it currently stands.

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