Tight ends are some of the toughest players in football. Fullbacks are certainly up there, too. Maybe it's because he is playing both positions in training camp that Larry Donnell gritted out a knee injury on Friday to play Sunday against the Colts. But really he's just a man trying to make a team.
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"Every rep is golden in preseason, especially for me," Donnell said before Tuesday's practice. "So I feel like the more I'm on the field, the more I'm helping myself and the team."
Donnell, who spent last season on the Giants' practice squad as a tight end, sprained his knee when he landed awkwardly after jumping up for a pass during the final practice before Sunday's game. The looks and reactions from his teammates said it all. The worst was feared as he was carted off the field.
"When the injury happened, it was kind of a shock to me," Donnell said. "Just the shock of what happened."
Fortunately tests later revealed no major damage, and Donnell managed to limp through Saturday's walkthrough. Yet he was still not expected to play. But on game day he was able to do enough physically that the training staff cleared him to play.
He suited up and saw action in the second half at MetLife Stadium.
"I take my hat off to Larry Donnell, he hurt himself the other day in practice," head coach Tom Coughlin said after the game. "I was afraid of the seriousness; he came back with the ligaments in tact but we thought he would be sore. He vowed that he wanted to play, he had the doctors and the trainers with him on the field this morning and he ran and went through a series of exercises and the medical people cleared him to play. So his attitude, really more than anything else, determined that he wanted to play and he did."
His worried teammates were also glad to see him back.
"They were just happy nothing serious happened because I had a couple guys in the locker room right after the injury happened and they heard it too and saw it too," Donnell said. "They were just happy and proud I got back onto the field."
It was the second time Donnell overcame an injury this year after missing spring workouts with a broken foot. A healthy 6-foot-6, 269-pound Donnell returned to piece together an impressive showing at training camp, where he is also seeing time at fullback with Henry Hynoski on the physically unable to perform list.
"It's been big, from first year to this year," Donnell said. "You see the game a lot different. I started understanding more and more. It's a big difference between college and the pros. A lot of stuff is learned and I think I'm starting to see that stuff better and better now. I'm just getting better at everything."