EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today welcomed back offensive lineman Nick Gates, who suffered a catastrophic leg injury last year. Gates had not played or practiced since Sept. 16, 2021, when he fractured the fibula and tibia in his left leg in Washington, injuries that required seven surgeries to mend.
Gates began the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, but this week he passed his physical and today practiced for the first time.
He can practice for up to 21 days before the Giants must decide to activate Gates or placed him back on PUP for the remainder of the season.
"I feel good," Gates said. "It's nice to be back out there on the field, it's nice to run around with the guys. It was a good time. It was a good feeling to be back out there. I didn't think I was going to be back out there this fast.
"I was just excited to be back out there. I just wanted to go out there and just play football again. Not have to think, not have to worry about making calls – just go out there and play football. It was fun, it was fun to be back out there with the guys. That camaraderie, you don't get that when you're just by yourself doing indy (individual work) or off to the side. It was good to be back in there with the guys."
Coach Brian Daboll wasn't here was Gates was hurt, but he has become of fan of his during the player's comeback.
"Impressive," Daboll said. "We had a walkthrough earlier and had him break down the team. Much respect to really anybody that comes back from injuries, but his injuries were significant. All the surgeries and he's had nothing but a positive mindset since he's been here. The guys were hooting and hollering when he was breaking them down. You root for guys like that. It's a tough industry we're in, in terms of physical things that can happen. Just a lot of respect for him and what he's done and proud of the young man."
The versatile Gates has played in 34 games with 21 starts – 17 at center, two at right tackle, and one at each guard position. How can he help the team now?
"I don't want to jump that far ahead," he said. "I've just got to take it day by day and get myself back up to where I was before I got hurt. I'm just thinking of the next day ahead."
Gates concedes his long rehabilitation was "lonely" at times. He wondered whether the pain and hard work were worth returning to the football field. Today, he's certain they were.
"I just wanted to play football again, to be honest with you," he said. "Just being out there is fun. I don't know how else to explain it, but I was watching the last game up in the box the last couple of weeks we were playing and I'm like, 'I just want to be back out there again with the guys and just have fun.' What other job lets you hit people and basically do whatever you want? (Laughs) It's a fun time."
*The Giants have other players they hope will return to the field at some point. Offensive lineman Matt Peart is on PUP and cornerback Rodarius Williams, linebacker Elerson Smith and guard Shane Lemieux are on injured reserve.
Asked if any of them are "close," Daboll said, "Potentially, but not right now."