EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' home game Sunday against the Chicago Bears will be both harder and easier for Leonard Williams than their Monday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
It will be more difficult because the Giants' stellar defensive lineman must miss his second consecutive game – and the second of his eight-year career. Every player despises a forced absence due to injury, but at least Williams knows what to expect when he joins his teammates without his uniform on.
"That was my first time since being in the NFL I had to sit on the sideline," Williams said today. "It was a weird feeling because I didn't know how much I should be engaged. I didn't know how much I shouldn't be engaged. I didn't want to be in the way of the coaches, but I also didn't want to just be there. So, I wanted to try to help out as much as possible. It was a weird happy medium I was trying to find."
Williams hurt his knee in the third quarter of the Giants' 19-16 victory against Carolina on Sept. 18. He was being blocked by Panthers guard Austin Corbett as he pursued quarterback Baker Mayfield when tackle Taylor Moton was pushed into him by linebacker Jihad Ward. Williams' knee bent awkwardly, and he lay on the field for several minutes before walking off under his own power. He was later diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral ligament.
"It was unfortunate. It was scary," Williams said.
Asked if he was initially worried, Williams said, "I wasn't sure, honestly. I just know I've never had anything lower body-wise. I had a shoulder in college and an elbow last year, and small stuff like that that I can kind of keep playing on. But when it's something lower body like a knee, it's a little more testy. You know, a little more questionable. So, I wasn't sure. I didn't want to put any bad thoughts into my mind before checking out the MRI.
"Luckily it wasn't something season ending, or surgery needed or anything like that. And hopefully I'll be back out there as soon as possible."
Williams is not just one of the Giants' best players, but a team captain and a gregarious presence in the locker room, on the practice field and on game day. He had played in 114 consecutive games with 106 starts and his 21 consecutive starts were tied with linebacker Tae Crowder for the Giants' longest streak.
Now, Williams is a reluctant spectator.
"It's harder during the week, because I can't go out there and practice with them," he said. "In the meeting rooms, I'm paying attention as much as possible but then I know I'm not playing in the games. So, it's kind of hard. I'm being engaged as much as possible, and I'm treating it and rehabbing as much as possible. But it's hard to not do as much as they're doing. And I've never really been in that type of position. I'm not the type of guy that takes vet days or anything like that because I'm the type of guy that likes to put in the work."
As the Giants warmed up before the Dallas game, Williams remained in the bench area, uncertain what he should do.
"Even before the game, I was talking to Dex (defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence) about some stuff we were seeing in the film room," Williams said. "He was happy that I pointed out something that he might not have seen. And was just asking me if I was going to be on the field, and I told him yeah. So, he was happy I was going to be on the field. Just having that little interaction with him, it made me feel wanted on the sideline. I know I have the respect from my teammates, so it made me feel good being out there at least."
The Giants could certainly use Williams' strong presence up front tomorrow against a Bears team that has 59 more rushing attempts than passes. But he still laments missing the Dallas game.
"This game, but more the last game than anything because it's a divisional game," he said. "I think those divisional games matter more to me regardless of what type of running or passing team it is. I think I want to help in those divisional games more than anything. So, the Cowboys, it was more of a rivalry game on Monday night. It was hard for me to miss that one."
Williams has been relentlessly rehabbing, trying to strengthen his knee so he can return to the field.
"I'm able to go out on the field and do some running and field work on it," he said. "But before I got on the field, I was doing a lot of workouts in the pool (on the AlterG treadmill). It changes the gravity a little bit, so there's a little less weight. But it's been nice to be able to be on the field and do stuff on it. Still doesn't feel 100 percent yet."
In Week 5, the Giants will play the Green Bay Packers in London. But Williams has not circled that or any other game for his potential return to the field.
"I don't think that helps because I can possibly come back sooner than a date circled," he said. "I don't want to put that into my mind of trying to reach a certain date. I'm more just taking it day-by-day, honestly."
And doing what he can to be a good teammate when he's not in the trenches.
"(His absence) helps me notice even more how much of a close team this is being on the sideline, being more of a spectator and viewer than actually being in it," Williams said. "It helps me see what type of team it actually is. I definitely like the progression and where the team is right now as far as being a team."
Another reason he looks forward to rejoining it on the field.
*The Giants today listed five players as out for their home game Sunday against the Bears. In addition to Williams, they are wide receivers Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Wan'Dale Robinson and defensive backs Cor'Dale Flott (calf) and Nick McCloud (hamstring).
*Cornerbacks Aaron Robinson (appendix), Justin Layne (concussion) and linebacker Jihad Ward (knee) practiced fully and are no longer on the injury report.
*The Bears announced that running back David Montgomery (ankle/knee) will not play. Defensive backs Jaylon Johnson and Dane Cruikshank are also out.
*The Giants and Bears are facing each other for the fifth consecutive season and for the first time in MetLife Stadium since 2018. Chicago won in each of the last three seasons in Soldier Field, but the Giants defeated Chicago in the three most recent meetings in MetLife Stadium, in 2010, 2016 and 2018. The Bears lead the regular-season series, 31-21-2; and the postseason series, 5-3.
*Tomorrow's contest will be the first of the Giants' two Legacy Games this season (also Dec. 4 vs. Washington). The team will wear the uniform worn from 1980-1999, an era during which the Giants won Super Bowls XXI and XXV. The uniforms include a navy-blue helmet with a white GIANTS decal. A classic pennant will be distributed to the first 30,000 fans on Sunday, courtesy of Quest.
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s this Sunday as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.