EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Wide receiver Sterling Shepard was limited this week in practice but was not included on the Giants' final injury report and will play Monday night in MetLife Stadium against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I feel pretty good," Shepard said today on a post-practice Zoom call. "I'm going to give it a go this week."
Shepard, the Giants' longest-tenured player, suffered turf toe in Chicago on Sept. 20 and missed the next four games. He returned in the team's most recent game, nine days ago in Philadelphia, where he had team-high totals of six catches for 59 yards, including a two-yard touchdown.
"The (athletic) trainers did a great job of keeping me in shape in different ways," Shepard said. "Running in the pool, running on different treadmills, not to put so much body weight on it, so I got to keep my wind up."
In his five-year career, Shepard has endured injuries to his neck and ankle and a concussion. But the toe injury presented him with a new challenge.
"I didn't know much about it at all," Shepard said. "Anybody that's had it will tell you it's nothing to play with. If you don't have your big toe, especially for a skill position guy, it's hard to get your job done in any way, shape or form. It's one of the more frustrating injuries that I've had. I've come a long way and I thank the trainers for that.
"It was pretty frustrating because the way it happened. I've been tackled like that a bunch of times. It just so happened my foot was in an awkward position. But that's just the way the game goes. You just have to kind of take your lumps and keep pushing forward. I tried not to look at the situation I was in negatively. I tried to learn as much as I could about the offense and what I needed to do whenever I got back. It's helped me."
And now he's ready to keep helping the Giants on Monday night.
*Running back Saquon Barkley, who was also injured against the Bears, has surgery yesterday in Los Angeles to repair his torn right ACL.
"It sounds like it was a positive deal right there," coach Joe Judge said. "Obviously, we'll know more as time goes on and his rehab starts. But it seems like he's in good spirits. We're looking forward to getting him back over here on this side of the country."
"He's doing good," Shepard said. "He's in good spirits. I talked to him yesterday after the surgery, he seemed to be doing great to me."
*Running back Devonta Freeman, who started the previous four games, will not play against Tampa Bay because of an ankle injury he suffered in Philadelphia. Freeman leads the Giants' running backs with 172 rushing yards. The other backs on the roster are Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis and Eli Penny. Veteran Alfred Morris is on the practice squad.
Defensive back Adrian Colbert (shoulder) was also declared out of the game. He will miss his third consecutive game and fifth of the season.
Wide receiver C.J. Board (concussion) is questionable.
*Left guard Will Hernandez will not play after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week. Hernandez has never missed a snap in his three seasons, participating in 2,523 consecutive plays, including 429 this season.
Rookie fifth-round draft choice Shane Lemieux seems likely to start in his place, but Judge wasn't willing to announce that. Practice squad player Chad Slade could be another possibility.
"We're going to consider all the guys right now," Judge said. "We're going to go through that today after practice and kind of go through how the week went and what's going on. We have a lot of install to go today with some red area and two-minute. Without having a lot of those guys (linemen) on Wednesday (in practice), it's kind of backlogged some of the things we've had to do. There are still some decisions to be made there."
*The Giants will face six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady in prime time for the second year in a row. On Oct. 10, 2019, they lost a Thursday night game in New England, 35-14, in Brady's last of his 20 seasons with the Patriots.
That was Brady's 273rd regular season start. It was Daniel Jones' fourth.
"I spoke to Tom just for kind of a brief moment after the game last year," Jones said. "Really just wished each other luck going forward. Not a whole lot really from that conversation. But I have a ton of respect for him, watching him growing up and all the success he's had in this league. I look forward to getting out there Monday night.
"He's a great player. Obviously, he's accomplished a great deal in this league and has had a tremendous amount of success. At the same time, we're preparing for the Tampa Bay Bucs. We have to play a good defense. On offense, we're preparing for that and we'll be ready to go. Obviously, a ton of respect for him and who he is as a player. But we have to prepare to play a Tampa Bay Bucs team that has a lot of good players on offense and defense."
*Jones' first start was a dramatic 32-31 victory in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2019. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores, including the game-winning seven-yarder with 1:16 remaining.
"There are some similarities in terms of personnel and, obviously, the coordinator (Todd Bowles) is the same," Jones said. "We've gone back and watched that game. I think we can take certain things from it here and there. But they are a different defense. They're calling it a little bit different and doing a couple different things. We'll have to prepare for that. But yeah, I think last year's tape and some of the notes from last year are definitely helpful going in."
*Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants' first-round draft choice in 2010, was traded to Tampa Bay in 2018 and currently leads the Bucs with 5.5 sacks. His position coach in his final two seasons with the Giants was Patrick Graham, who is now the team's defensive coordinator.
"You talk about all those guys that are different, he's different," Graham said. "He's a different human being walking among us. Whether it's his movement skills, his skill level that's improved as he's gotten older."