Sterling Shepard figured he would never again catch a pass from Eli Manning in a game. He assumed that the rest of his receptions this season – and likely in the rest of his Giants career -- would come from the hand of Daniel Jones. He’d come to grips with having said goodbye to the only starting quarterback he knew for the first three years of his career.
“But here we are,” Shepard said on Wednesday.
Here we are.
Jones suffered what the Giants are calling a “moderate high ankle sprain” that will probably keep him from playing in Monday’s game against the Eagles, and perhaps the rest of the season. That means the Giants will, according to Pat Shurmur, “very likely” turn to their backup quarterback this week.
You remember him, right?
“Eli looks good,” Shurmur said on Wednesday, calling the 38-year-old “eager” to get back onto the field for the first time since Week 2 this season. “If in fact he does play this week he’ll be ready to go … I expect him to go out and have a winning performance.”
As for the rust that likely accumulated on Manning during the past 11 weeks, Shurmur said he’s not worried about it.
“What are we going to do about it?” he asked. “Why worry about things that you can’t do anything about? I anticipate and expect that he’s going to be ready to play.”
Jones suffered the injury in the first half against the Packers on Sunday when he ran for a fourth-down conversion. He played the rest of the game and was sore on Monday, but when that soreness did not dissipate, he was sent for an MRI. Jones was in a walking boot on Wednesday when the team practiced.
The Giants have not ruled Jones out, but Shurmur said that if the Giants were to play on Wednesday or Thursday, Jones would not be available. There is a sliver of a chance that Jones could recover in time for Monday’s game. He played with a high ankle sprain last year at Duke, but that was to his left side, not the right ankle – the one he uses to push off to throw -- as this injury is.
“As the week goes on, it’ll be more and more evident that he’s not going to be ready to go,” Shurmur said.
Given the status of the Giants’ season at 2-10 with eight straight losses, they are likely to be cautious with their quarterback of the future.
“It’s disappointing,” Jones said. “You want to play. Everyone wants to play. But I do understand it. It’s my job to get healthy as quick as I can.”
Shurmur said Jones’ ankle injury is “similar but not as severe” as the one Saquon Barkley suffered earlier this season. That high ankle sprain cost Barkley three games over four weeks. With four weeks left in this season, Jones may not be back on the field until 2020.
Shurmur did say that if Jones is healthy enough to play in the final weeks of this season, he will come back as the starter.
Until then, it’ll be Manning at quarterback. For many players on the offense, that will be something new. There are plenty of players on the offense – from rookie Darius Slayton to veteran Golden Tate – who have never played in a game with Manning. They’ll have to work on their chemistry together in a hurry.
For others, though, it will be just like old times.
“I expect him to be the same Eli,” Shepard said. “We just did a period [at practice] and lit it up. It felt good.”