EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Sterling Shepard was the easiest player to spot in the Giants' practice today.
The fourth-year wide receiver was the only player on the field wearing a bright yellow pinny over his jersey.
Shepard fractured his left thumb in the first training camp workout last Thursday. Since then, he had stayed in peak condition working with strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, and catching soft passes – or tennis balls - solely with his right hand in individual drills. Today, he participated in the 11-on-11 segments of practice wearing the no-contact yellow vest and under one stipulation – the ball would not be thrown to him.
"It's not ideal," Shepard said. "But it still allows me to work on my technique, see on film that I'm getting open, that I'm creating separation. I know the ball is not going to come my way, or at least I don't think it is sometimes. It might surprise me a couple of times. During the walkthroughs, he (Eli Manning) might accidentally throw it to me or something. Yeah, it just allows me to work on my game still."
During the team drills, no passes were thrown to Shepard.
"But was I open," Shepard said. "That's the main thing I'm looking at. Am I getting open? I can't catch the ball right now."
Manning seemed amused that Shepard delivered the standard, "I was open but they didn't throw it to me" refrain.
"Have you ever heard a receiver say they weren't open?" Manning said.
Come to think of it…no.
Manning wasn't sure if throwing the ball to his top returning wideout would have been prudent.
"I don't know what the rules are," he said. "I can put it in his right arm, so he can catch it one-handed. I threw him some one-on-one stuff. I didn't know what the rules were officially today when he was out there running a few routes. I think if I see him, I'd probably throw it.
"There was maybe one I maybe could have put it in, but it was going to be a little tight and I didn't want to throw him into a crowd right there with the thumb going on."
The medical staff, coach Pat Shurmur and Shepard all thought it was a low-risk exercise to let the receiver work in team periods.
"We thought it would be okay, as long as I put the yellow jersey on, which I don't like," Shepard said. "But I do it to keep everybody off me - which doesn't really work out most of the time. But it's all good, though. I need contact, too. It happened a few times today. But for the most part, if I were to catch the ball, then they would stay off me, probably."
Shepard said his thumb "feels really good. Hopefully next week, I'll get this thing (splint) off and get to catching balls."
Manning was pleased to have Shepard back, even if he couldn't throw to him.
"I think it's good for him," Manning said. "It's one of those injuries that he can still run. We've been doing routes vs. air (with no defense on the field). But it's just good for him to hear plays, getting lined up, being out there, being able to run around and just be a part of it. You're still getting the work so when he does come back, he's not having totally missed out on three weeks of practice."
*After the team's off day, Shurmur offered a review of the first week of camp.
"Where we've made the most progress, I think, is the familiarity with the schemes on really all three sides of the ball, so offense, defense and special teams," Shurmur said. "I think our younger players have come further this year than maybe they did last year. Those are probably the areas (we've made the most progress). This is a critical week, as you get into the second week of training camp, so to speak, because our next off day will be Sunday, then we start to get into training camp slash game prep stuff for the preseason game (Aug. 8 vs. the Jets). We've got a long way to go, I think, to get where we need to be. But I think it's a good first week."
*Dexter Lawrence, the second of the Giants' three first-round draft choices, was a dominant defensive tackle at Clemson. He is finding more room to breathe in the NFL.
"Just a little bit more space you can work with out there," Lawrence said. "At Clemson, I was stuck inside a little bit, and now I get to play on the edge. I'm enjoying it a lot, all the different opportunities at the position."
Though he has yet to play in a game, Lawrence is getting a taste of life in the pros by going against players like Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler in practice.
"It's been good," he said. "It's just kind of what you expect. Every day you come in, you're in the elite level now. Everybody is big, and strong, and smart, so it's kind of what my mindset has been. Just to use my strength to help them get better, and then you help me get better, so it's kind of like a collective effort."
*Rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine intercepted a Daniel Jones pass today, his second pick of camp. This one was in the end zone.
*The following players missed practice: wide receivers Darius Slayton (hamstring) and Brittan Golden (groin), cornerback Henre' Tolliver (ankle), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion) and linebackers Nate Stupar (load management) and Mark McLaurin (foot).