EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For Julian Love, the Giants' practice today was at once predictably routine and unsettlingly different.
The third-year defensive back worked at several positions, as is his custom. But he did so without his friend and mentor, Logan Ryan, who did not practice today due to COVID-19 protocols.
"It was very similar to my usual Fridays because I feel like I'm always kind of subbing in and out of every type of position," Love said. "I think from a leadership perspective, it's tough. We obviously, we've got to see what happens. He is kind of the vet, (an) experienced guy in our secondary right now. Yeah, I mean, obviously we want him out there with us."
Whether Ryan joins Love and the rest of his teammates Monday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida is an open question.
Coach Joe Judge confirmed that Ryan had a positive rapid test. Because he is vaccinated, Ryan would need to be asymptomatic and receive two consecutive negative PCR tests 24 hours apart in order to be cleared in time to face the Bucs.
"He wouldn't be completely ruled out at this point for the game," Judge said. "We've got to wait and see in terms of the test results coming up. … There's still another test, we're waiting on the results coming back."
As is mandatory in this situation, the Giants were investigating Ryan's close contacts.
"For each one of these things that pops up, it's like three hours' worth of contact tracing, who was where, who talked to who, who ate next to so-and-so," Judge said.
As they are every week, Giants players were tested Monday when they returned to work after their four-day break for the bye. Judge declined to say why Ryan was tested again yesterday.
"I'm not going to go into the specifics of his personal situation," Judge said. "But it was something that drew an alarm to get him tested beyond just once this week."
This is the second consecutive game prep week in which the Giants have dealt with a COVID situation. Two weeks ago, 13 positive results forced all the players and coaches to be re-tested and practice to be pushed back. Though almost all of them proved to be false positives, three players were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, running backs coach Burton Burns was diagnosed with COVID and the players were briefly sent home one day. None of it adversely affected the team on the field as the Giants defeated the Las Vegas Raiders, 23-16.
Judge noted the two situations are different.
"I would not say this is a false positive at this time like we had last week," he said.
Well into the second season of COVID protocols, the Giants are familiar with the drill when testing results mandate changes to their routine.
"Out of precaution for all those players that are unvaccinated, we had a lot of them Zoom in today to thin out the rooms and make sure that they weren't exposed to being close contacts or to being in that situation," Judge said. "The way we set up the rooms anyway in the bubble and the meeting rooms, they're extremely spread out anyway. We're very specific about where certain players have to sit to make sure they're not close contacts with other people, kind of keep them protected. And we've talked throughout the year in terms of both the players who are not vaccinated being very conscious of who they're putting themselves around in terms of being in crowds, in the locker room, the cafeteria, things of that nature. Then also, we have to remind the team as well that you've got to respect their space, as well. We know who the guys are internally. We've got to respect their space, so they're not always all over everything and giving them room to operate."
View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Monday night matchup against the Buccaneers.
Ryan's absence would be substantial for the Giants. His 72 total tackles and 47 solo stops are team-high totals, as are his two forced fumbles. Ryan is a defensive captain and. as Love noted, one of the Giants' foremost leaders.
Ryan spoke yesterday about how much he looked forward to facing Tom Brady, his teammate in New England for four years.
"I think it's the greatest challenge in football playing him and it's a lot of fun," Ryan said. "I love to play the chess match against him and that's why I'm here, to help us have a good chess game."
Now, the Giants might be missing one of their most important defensive pieces.
"Throughout the year, we've already lost a lot of significant players," Judge said. "We don't want to be without any of our guys, especially a captain, a leader, but that's something we've already gone through as a team. Everyone has to prepare every week, we have to get the team prepared every week. Doesn't matter who we're playing, you want to have all your players out there, but the most important thing is everyone has to be prepared that when they go out there, they can produce."
Love has done that all season and if Ryan is sidelined, he will shoulder a larger load in the secondary.
"Love has a significant role in the game for us anyway, so Love will be out there playing a lot," Judge said. "Obviously, if you have Logan (out), there's several guys on the practice squad who will be in effect, as well."
The defensive backs on the practice squad include Steven Parker, Ka'dar Holman and Jarren Williams. Parker played 12 special teams snaps at Kansas City on Nov. 1.
Love's thoughts are with Ryan, who is keeping close tabs on the team in his absence.
"I talk to Logan a lot, I talked to him this morning," Love said. "It's tough. I know we're waiting on some results and all that stuff. It's just tough, it's just tough to see. First and foremost, you just want to wish safety on him and everyone he's around, his family and all that. That's kind of what's on my mind is for him, just his health and safety, really.
"I'm sure he's going to have a Zoom call scheduled with us later today just to recap what he sees on film. That's just the type of leader he is. He's really attached and he's really in it with us no matter what."
The Giants hope he's with them on the field Monday night in Tampa.
*Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who missed the previous two games with an ankle injury, did not practice for the third consecutive day because of a stomach bug. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (quad) and safety Nate Ebner (knee) did not practice.
*Tight end Kaden Smith (knee), who did not participate yesterday, was limited today. He was joined by running backs Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Devontae Booker (hip) and fullback Cullen Gillaspia (calf).
Barkley, who has not played since Oct. 10 in Dallas, said, "(I) feel pretty good. Getting better every day. Just continue to get acclimated and take it one day at a time, listen to the training staff, listen to the coaches."
Click through the history of the New York Giants facing legendary quarterback Tom Brady, a series that includes two meetings in the Super Bowl.