EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When Sterling Shepard injured his ribs in the second quarter of the Giants' game yesterday against the Chicago Bears, it initially seemed his participation for the day had ended. At least that was the word he received from the team's medical staff.
"They said I wasn't going to go back out at first," Shepard said. "But I felt like I could."
And so he did. Shepard even caught two passes on the overtime drive that ended with Aldrick Rosas' game-winning 44-yard field goal (and just missed securing what would have been a deciding touchdown pass in the end zone).
Running back Saquon Barkley, linebacker Olivier Vernon and safety Landon Collins also suffered injuries, left the game to be examined, and returned to help the Giants defeat Chicago, 30-27.
It might not seem like a big deal. But on some teams that would finish a game with a 4-8 record, players might not rush back onto the field after being hurt. But these Giants continue to attack the season as if they have championship aspirations.
"This is my first year being in the NFL, but I have heard on other teams just players that have been on other teams around the league that when the season's not going your way, a lot of people call it quits," Barkley said. "You don't get that vibe when you come in this building, when you play in a game. For example, those guys getting checked out and coming right back in. We're playing for each other and we're real competitors, and we love going out there competing for each other every single day. We do that no matter what, win, lose or draw. Obviously, it just hasn't been in our favor most of this year, but that just shows and speaks to our character and speaks to the guys on this team. Even though it hasn't been clicking perfectly right now, when this thing does get going, it's going to make all of this adversity we've been going through so much better."
"We like to fight for each other," said Shepard, a third-year pro. "We're all brothers in here. So if me being out there is a going to help the team get a W, I'm going to fight through whatever I have. As long as it's not something really, really serious, I'm going to go back out there and fight for my brothers, and you saw that around the team. I think it shows what type of team we have and the guys are going to lay it all on the line, no matter the situation."
The players take their cue from coach Pat Shurmur, whose focus has not wavered in a season in which the record has not been what everybody hoped it would be. His only goal each week is to win the next game. This week, it's Sunday in Washington. The Giants can still finish .500 and they're going to do everything they can to get there.
And as a reporter noted in Shurmur's news conference today, the Giants are not mathematically eliminated from anything.
"That's right," Shurmur said. "It's amazing for some of you to probably come to grips with, but we're not."
Many of the questions Shurmur was asked today were in response to the promotion yesterday of rookie Kyle Lauletta to the No. 2 quarterback position, behind Eli Manning. Lauletta had been inactive for each of the first 11 games. With the change in status, Shurmur was asked – more than once – if he plays to start or play Lauletta at some point this season. He stressed that Manning remains the starter. As for the rest …
"I want to win every game we play, starting with the Redskins," Shurmur said. "That will be with Eli as our starter.
"We're trying to win this game. We're trying to get 8-8 one game at a time and then see what happens from there. We have all types of discussions behind the scenes, it's very fluid. Dave (Gettleman, the general manager) and I talk throughout the week, I have conversations with John (Mara), Steve (Tisch), we're always talking about this team, evaluating or really talking about who played well, who needs to play better as we move forward, this and that. There's always conversation about what happened, where we're going, short and long term plans. I would never share that with anybody. But don't be surprised by the answer, because that's something that we all do all the time regardless of your role. As head coach, I'm obviously involved in all of those. When I was a coordinator, I was only involved with the offensive part of it. Those conversations are happening all the time."
Shurmur said there's a "good chance' Lauletta will be the backup again in Washington.
"Then we'll visit next week and we'll talk again," he said. "Good chance."
*Rookie linebacker Tae Davis (ankle) suffered the most serious injury in the game.
"Tae will most likely be available this week, but we'll have to see," Shurmur said.
Regarding Shepard, Shurmur said, "By all accounts, he'll be there, so we'll see."
Shepard said, "it's just one of those I probably have to fight through."
*In a game with many memorable plays, perhaps none stood out as much as a 17-yard Manning pass to Barkley that ended with the rookie running back leaping over Bears defensive back Adrian Amos, Jr. It was an athletic maneuver few other players can pull off. But would Shurmur prefer his prized rookie not leave his feet?
"No, if he can advance the ball, I think that's a good thing," Shurmur said. "He really runs under control, he's got outstanding body control and the fact that he can do that, I think, is amazing. But no, you certainly don't want a player to do anything reckless and get himself hurt."
*The game would not have gone to overtime had the Giants recovered Chicago's onside kick with 1:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. The ball was recovered by tight end Daniel Brown. Shurmur said no one in particular was at fault for not securing the ball.
"I think we just didn't execute that very well," he said. "We would have liked to have seen better blocking in the front line, which would have created more separation for the back line. I think maybe Odell (Beckham, Jr.) sort of misjudged the pace of the kick, which kind of put him a little bit behind it, and then he tried to do, based on what I saw, what you would do to the kick if it was closer to the sideline, bat it out of bounds. In my mind, we just executed that play poorly.
"On the flip side, Chris Tabor, their special teams coach, was my special teams coach in Cleveland, so we worked together. I know he's a very good special teams coach and they executed that play well. They executed well and we didn't, that's really the gist of it."