Daniel Jones of the New York Giants is on the ground...

Daniel Jones of the New York Giants is on the ground after being hit by Jabril Cox of the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 10, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Richard Rodriguez

For anyone who saw Daniel Jones stagger back to the huddle after a violent helmet-to-helmet hit late in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, this was a most reassuring sight:

As the Giants returned to practice on Wednesday, Jones walked onto the field in full uniform and then spent several minutes with the training staff doing some light running and stretching in the far end zone while his teammates began their regular practice routine.

Jones had been diagnosed with a concussion, yet his progress was encouraging enough that he was cleared to get back onto the field.

Great.

Now for the important word of caution: The Giants, reeling from a 1-4 start, would be foolish to put Jones back on the field prematurely in hopes of jump-starting their season against the Rams on Sunday. That’s the Rams, who boast the NFL’s best defensive player in Aaron Donald, a man who can punish even the healthiest of quarterbacks with his brute strength and catlike quickness.

Coach Joe Judge surely will be tempted to put Jones back in the lineup to give his team a fighting chance against the 4-1 Rams, who are among the NFL’s elite teams this season. And even if there’s no way Judge would defy doctor’s orders with Jones, the fact of the matter is he needs to proceed extremely carefully — and conservatively — as he mulls his options.

If that means sitting Jones this week and going with backup Mike Glennon — thereby reducing the team’s hopes against a superior opponent — then so be it.

The Giants have already seen what it’s like to put Jones back out too soon when he’s recovering from an injury. Last year, Jones pulled his hamstring in a 19-17 win over the Bengals and clearly had problems pushing off his leg to throw the ball. He had to sit out the following week, as backup Colt McCoy played in an upset win over the Seahawks in Seattle to revive the team’s playoff hopes.

Jones should have been given another week off, but Judge started him against the Cardinals. Jones’ mobility was clearly compromised, and he hurt his ankle in a 26-7 loss at home. He missed the next week’s game against the Browns before returning for the final two games — a loss to Baltimore and a win over the Cowboys.

Jones was ready to tough it out, as all competitive football players do. But Judge admitted months later that Jones was hurting worse than most people knew.

"It was much more serious than maybe people thought on the outside," Judge told ESPN radio host Michael Kay last May. "I would say that 90% of the players in the league who would’ve had that injury, including quarterbacks, would have been on [injured reserve] for the remainder of the year. It was much more severe than maybe he allowed people to know, or the information that was put out there."

It is against that backdrop that Judge must now move much more deliberately with Jones. This isn’t trying to push through a hamstring injury or an ankle problem, or both, as was the case last season. It’s a concussion, and an extra layer of caution must therefore be applied. Especially with a player such as Jones, whose natural instinct is to play, regardless of the risk.

If the Giants truly believe that Jones has earned the right to be the franchise quarterback moving ahead — and he has taken several positive steps in that direction with his improved play this season — then they must be willing to surrender a potential short-term gain for long-term considerations.

The season is already slipping away after a nightmarish start, and with games against the Rams and Kansas City up next, the situation might worsen considerably. Add in the fact that Jones can sometimes be guilty of playing too fearlessly — see his move to lower his helmet near the goal line and invite the contact that caused the concussion on Sunday — and you understand why the decision about his playing status this weekend is a huge one.

And if there is even a scintilla of doubt about whether he is taking any added risk by playing, then the answer is clear: He shouldn’t.

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