Sterling Shepard wasn’t even aware he had been on the injury report all this week.
The Giants called him as a limited participant in each of their practices, including Saturday’s.
"Oh, I didn’t know I was listed as that," he said after the workout, blissfully ignorant of the paperwork and classifications that teams must produce to designate players at various levels of readiness. Players normally pay little mind to such technicalities. They just practice and play when they are told to do so.
But that doesn’t mean that Shepard doesn’t know that he is hurt. Quite the contrary. Although he came of the injured reserve list and played in last week’s game against the Eagles – he even scored a touchdown – and will suit up again against the Buccaneers on Monday night, the wide receiver continues to fight through the turf toe injury he suffered in Week 2.
The pain from the innocuous-sounding but potentially debilitating injury is the daily reminder of his condition.
"I didn’t know much about it all," Shepard said turf toes. "Anybody who has had it will tell you it’s nothing to play (around) 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 I’ve had but I’ve come a long way and I thank the trainers for that."
Yet it lingers. And likely will for the rest of the season.
"I’m probably going to have to deal with it," he sighed.
If he does that the way he did in his first game back, the Giants won’t mind. Shepard caught six passes for 59 yards – including the touchdown that gave the Giants a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter – against the Eagles. There was a discernable difference in the Giants’ offense with Shepard on the field compared to the doldrum weeks prior without him.
That was without having actually practiced with the team since his injury.
"He does bring that juice to the offense," wide receiver coach Tyke Tolbert said. "He brought that juice to the whole offense, the whole team, not just the wide receiver group. He’s on the sideline pumping everybody up, telling everybody we can do it or whatever, so we missed his leadership skills out there. Then we saw his leadership skills helped us as an offense during the game and his playmaking skills helped us in the game. Very glad to have him back."
Shepard said he had very little trouble re-integrating himself into the offense.
"They’d been having me in meetings and everything throughout the time I was out, so I was staying in tune with everything and all the different changes we made in that four-week period that I was out," he said. "That helped me out when I returned."
Nor was he particularly gassed from his outing despite having been idle for a month.
"I was running in the pool, running on different treadmills to not put so much body weight on it," Shepard said. "I got to keep my wind up."
But there was nothing he could do about the nagging pain . . . except try get used to it because it will be with him for a while.
"Look, this guy is working hard through whatever he’s got," coach Joe Judge said. "I think there’s not a player in the league who is 100 percent at this point. Everyone is nicked up, everyone is banged up. That’s true in our locker room as well as the other locker rooms. But one thing I’ll say for Sterling, he’s a tough dude. He’s very strong-willed and he wants to play. He’ll give himself every opportunity to get out there and play."
For Shepard, that means trying to ignore the pain as well as he ignores the injury reports.