EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No one can accuse the Giants’ wide receivers of not attracting attention this training camp, though the news they received today was frankly more they didn’t need.
Wide receiver Golden Tate confirmed numerous reports that he is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. The 10-year veteran, whom the Giants signed on March 15, is appealing. Tate released a statement that covered several factors about the suspension, his past, and his plans.
“This past April, during the off-season, my wife and I decided to see a specialist for fertility planning,” Tate said. “I started the treatment prescribed to me and just days later I discovered it contained an ingredient that is on the league's banned substance list. I immediately discontinued use, I reported the situation to the Independent Administrator of the NFL Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances, and I spoke with my coaches and general manager. I did all of this well before a failed test was even confirmed.
“Per NFL protocol, an initial suspension was imminent, but myself and the Giants organization are confident in the facts, and eagerly await my appeal to put this behind us.”
“During the entirety of my 10 year-career I have taken great pride in playing this game the right way, have been an ambassador for the NFL and I have never had any issues with the league’s policy. The treatment this past April had no effect on the upcoming season, and I did not, and could not have undergone this treatment in April for any competitive advantage. I deeply appreciate the support from the New York Giants organization and will continue to hold the highest level of character and integrity, while being a leader in the locker room.
“In respect to my team and my teammates, I won’t be speaking on this again until after the appeal. I’m focusing on football, and will not let this be a distraction.”
Tate can continue working with the team, including practice today.
“For him right now, it’s business as usual,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s out there practicing and getting ready to play. This really is between him and the league at this point. As an organization, we’ll deal with it as it comes down the road.”
Shurmur was asked if he is confident Tate will win his appeal.
“I don’t know, because I don’t know much about it other than - all along, he’s been very honest with us,” Shurmur said. “When this situation arose, he’s been very honest with us. It’s just getting to the point now where I think he’s going to have his appeal.”
Issues affecting the wide receivers have not followed Shurmur’s preferred script in this opening week of camp. They first deviation arose in the first rookie practice on Tuesday, when Darius Slayton, the speedy fifth-round draft choice from Auburn, tweaked his hamstring, an injury that has since sidelined him.
In Thursday’s first full-squad workout, Sterling Shepard, the team’s top returning wideout, broke his left thumb. He is listed as week-to-week, though he is working out on the field without participating in team drills. Yesterday, he ran routes and caught a tennis ball with his right hand. “He’s going to be fine,” Shurmur said.
“I want to be around the guys,” Shepard said. “I don’t want to just sit there all through camp. My legs work perfectly fine, so I can do everything but catch the ball.”
In the same practice, Corey Coleman, potentially ticketed for a larger role this year, suffered a season-ending torn ACL. He was placed on injured reserve today. Brittan Golden hurt his groin in practice yesterday.
The remaining receivers are Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Bennie Fowler, and youngsters Alonzo Russell, Reggie White, and Da’Mari Scott, plus two wideouts signed today, veteran TJ Jones and Amba Etta-Tawo, who was with the Giants last summer. Rookie free agent Alex Wesley is on the physically unable to perform list.
“We’ve got other guys that are competing to make our team,” Shurmur said. “We just keep moving.”
The players remaining in the wide receivers room – including those who are healthy and those working to get there – are confident in the group’s ability.
“In this league, it’s a next man up mentality, that’s what you have to have,” Sterling Shepard said. “This is the sport of football, injuries are going to happen. The next guy has to be ready. I like to see that, guys that don’t get a shot usually have a chance to step and be big. A lot of times you will get some dogs, I feel like we have dogs in our room and they have an opportunity of a lifetime.”
“New year, new story,” Russell Shepard said. “This is something that we can take and turn the table and change the narrative to make it out something positive. Things like this happen through the course of the year and we got a good group of guys that I think will make something good out of this situation.
“I’ve seen it happen at different positions at different teams. I remember one particular team, one year (2015) in Carolina when (wide receiver) Kelvin Benjamin got hurt and a few other receivers got hurt and they didn’t give that group or team a chance, and then they went on to win 15 games. So, I’ve seen it happen time and time again, and I’ve seen some great things come out of these situations. It’s the NFL, everybody is here for a reason, and everybody is just kind of waiting for their opportunity.”
Now it’s up the Giants’ receivers to make the most of the one they have.
*Jones, 6-0 and 190 pounds, is the more experienced receiver signed by the Giants today. A 2014 sixth-round draft choice by Detroit, he played in 42 games with nine starts in four seasons with the Lions. Jones caught 64 passes for 814 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, he played in a career-high 15 games with three starts and had 19 receptions for 190 yards and two scores. Jones has averaged 9.2 yards on 21 career punt returns and 20.9 yards on 14 kickoff returns.
*Etta-Tawo, 6-1 and 208 pounds, first signed with the Giants on Jan. 2, 2018 and caught one pass in the preseason – a 41-yard touchdown thrown by Kyle Lauletta against New England. He did two short stints on their practice squad early last season and finished the year on the Houston Texans’ practice squad.
*In addition to placing Coleman on I.R., the Giants created room on the roster by waiving kicker Joey Slye, who was signed earlier this week.