EAST RUTHERFORD. N.J. – The strangest day of Nick Gates' professional life began with a phone call from the Giants' at 6:15 a.m. yesterday. It was then the Giants' center learned that guard Will Hernandez – who he has lined up next to for all 429 offensive snaps this season and hundreds more in practice – had been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list
"They called me … and told me what was going on and asked me a couple questions about when do you think you could have been in contact with Will and things like that," said Gates, the Giants' starting center. "They have those contact tracers that we wear, they can see who's by who. They don't know what we were doing but they can tell who's by who. Trying to see what everybody was doing around each other."
Gates soon became one of five offensive linemen on the active roster who were instructed to remain home, forcing him to miss practice for the first time this year. The others were tackles Andrew Thomas and Cam Newton, center Spencer Pulley and rookie guard Shane Lemieux.
They participated in meetings on Zoom but could not attend practice, reducing the number of available linemen available to work on the field to four.
"They zoomed us into meetings," Gates said. "We were online with Zoom on the computer. I think it was around 9:30-10, I drove up and they walked out. I couldn't go in the facility or go in the testing center. I drove up and they came out and swabbed my nose and I drove home.
"This morning I came back, and I had to take two tests. I took the normal test and I took the rapid test. I think the rapid test takes 16 minutes to come back. I was on my way back home to do more Zoom meetings this morning and they told me I was negative so I could come in. "
He was joined by his four cohorts, who also practiced fully today. But before they could enter the building and work, there were some anxious moments.
"Just trying to stay positive and keep optimistic about it," Gates said. "Try to stay positive and control what I can control. Try to get ready for the game and do the best I can to make myself ready if I was able to go. It looks like I'm going to be able to, so just stay on track."
*Lemieux is expected to start for Hernandez, who has never missed a snap in his three-year, 39-game career. The fifth-round draft choice started 52 games at left guard at the University of Oregon.
"I have all the confidence in the world in Shane," Gates said. "He's a smart player, he's a tough player. He's proven to me and the whole O-line and coach (Marc) Colombo he can play football. He's going to be a good player. I'm excited to see what he can do when he gets in there. I'm excited to play next to him."
*In addition to the five linemen, wide receiver C.J. Board was a full practice participant for the first time this week. Board, who suffered a concussion against Washington on Oct. 18, was limited yesterday.
Three players remained limited: wide receiver Sterling Shepard (toe) and defensive backs Darnay Holmes (neck) and Adrian Colbert (shoulder).
Running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) did not practice for the second straight day. Freeman leads the Giants' running backs with 172 rushing yards. If he can't play, Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis will presumably split most of the carries. The Giants also have Eli Penny on the roster and veteran Alfred Morris on the practice squad.
When Freeman left last week's game in Philadelphia, Gallman stepped in and rushed for 34 yards on 10 carries and caught five passes for another 20 yards.
"We expect all of our running backs at the game to play," coach Joe Judge said. "Different game plans may have different roles for different guys, but Wayne's done a good job overall when he's gotten into the game. He's taken advantage of some of the situations he's been put into. We expect (Gallman) to have a role in every game that we have, along with Devonta, along with Dion. We have other backs on our roster as well we work with on a daily basis, we work to develop within our system and have them ready as well when they're needed. But Wayne's done a good job when we've asked him to."