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Sterling Shepard turns to old college practices


Sterling Shepard will be taping his ankles like he did in college to attempt to prevent further injury:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Sterling Shepard is going old school in an attempt to stay on the field for the Giants.

After twice spraining his ankle since the start of training camp, including the injury that kept him out of uniform for the two games prior to last week's bye, Shepard has once again started to tape his ankles, as he did at the University of Oklahoma.

"They were both non-contact," the second-year pro said of the ankle sprains, the first of which he suffered on Aug. 2 and the second against the Chargers on Oct. 8. "Two different routes, but it was just weird how it rolled over. I learned from it. I wasn't taping my ankles, and I taped my ankles all throughout college. I stopped taping my ankles when I got here, but now I'm back to it and I feel a lot better."

Shepard played in 50 games and caught 233 passes, including 26 for touchdowns, in four seasons at Oklahoma. And no, he never had an ankle injury in college.

"I think that's a sign that somebody was trying to get me," Shepard said.

That begs the question, why did he stop taping his ankles?

"I started listening to other guys in the locker room, saying it made you a little more free, a little more elusive," he said. "So I tried it out, I started doing it and liked it a little bit. But I don't see much of a difference in taping your ankles. So just go back to it."

With his ankles taped, Shepard will return to action on Sunday when the Giants host the Los Angeles Rams. That's a rare bit of good injury news for the Giants. Because it is well-documented by now that Shepard is the Giants' No. 1 receiver after the season-ending injuries to Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall.

When Shepard was inactive in the victory at Denver and the loss to Seattle two weeks ago, the Giants' wide receivers caught a total of only seven passes.

"Shep's one of our more experienced players at this point in time on offense," coach Ben McAdoo said. "He's an experienced player, he's a valuable playmaker, he knows the offense inside and out and he and Eli (Manning) have quite the chemistry together."

To recap, a receiver who has played all of 22 career games is one of the Giants' most experienced offensive players.

"It's my second year and now I'm the most experienced, and everybody is looking at me for the answers," Shepard said. "So it's a little weird."

The Giants' other active wideouts are third-year pro Tavarres King (11 career regular-season games), second-year pro Roger Lewis, Jr. (20 games), and rookies Travis Rudolph and Ed Eagan (two games apiece). The Giants have thrown for less than 200 yards in each of their last three games.

"We got some young guys in there, and we got some guys that the offense is still fresh on them," Shepard said. "We got a guy that left and then came back (King), so things might not be as fresh as he wants them to be. They are going to ask me questions. I'm asking them questions to see what they're thinking on different stuff, so we're all working together in the room. I'm just embracing the role and trying to help out as much as I can and try to get things rolling for the offense."

Despite missing almost three full games, Shepard is tied for third on the team with 22 catches, for 263 yards. His 77-yard catch-and-run touchdown at Philadelphia is the Giants' longest play this season and an example of what he can deliver to the passing attack with his return. Last season, he started every game as a rookie and caught 65 passes for 683 yards and eight touchdowns.

"Sterling played a lot of football for us last year," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "(He) had the injuries this year, (which) set him back, and if you look particularly upon last year when he was healthy, he made some critical plays for us on third down in some tough spots. There's no substitute for that experience. There's no substitute for a guy who's been there, and he's someone who's had a great week thus far.

"He's really determined. He's focused. Someone that I think we're going to rely upon and whether it's a leadership in terms of being more vocal or more by his actions, that's going to be up to him in terms of what suits his own personality. But I do know that he's someone that all the players respect and they appreciate his work ethic. We're hoping that he's in the position where he can be back on the field helping us."

With their passing game struggling, Shepard's return is exactly what the Giants need.

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