If ever there were a position group in need of a morale boost, it was the Giants’ wide receivers on the second day of training camp.
They watched Sterling Shepard walk off the field with a fractured left thumb in the first practice of the summer on Thursday, and while they were on the field for a walk-through on Friday morning, they learned that Corey Coleman had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will miss this season.
“Deflated,” Golden Tate said of the somber mood of the corps.
“It feels like there is a dark cloud over our room right now,” rookie Darius Slayton added.
But when they took the field for Friday afternoon’s practice, they were greeted by a ray of sunshine. There was Shepard, his thumb barely wrapped, running through drills and even catching some passes along with them.
Yes, they had lost Coleman, who was going to have a role in the offense and on special teams. But there is every indication that Shepard, the centerpiece of the passing game, will be back shortly. The Giants described his injury as week-to-week and said it will not require surgery. On Friday, it barely seemed to require a Band-Aid.
“He’ll be back soon,” Pat Shurmur said, adding that he “absolutely” will return before the regular season starts Sept. 8. “It’s the tip of his thumb . . . I’m not concerned about that one at all.”
General manager Dave Gettleman said the Giants will have tryouts for free-agent wide receivers on Saturday, just to fill the holes and have enough players to practice. The Giants also are without Slayton, who tweaked a hamstring earlier this week in the first day of rookie practices, and Alex Wesley, who is on the physically unable to perform list. Brittan Golden, another receiver, suffered a groin injury in Friday’s practice.
“We’re going to do something,” Gettleman said.
The mood lightened considerably during the day, thanks to Shepard’s nearly unencumbered appearance, but it did little to alter the reality that Coleman faces. His season ended in the first practice.
Coleman’s teammates didn’t even know he was hurt. Tate said Coleman complained about his knee bugging him a bit but showed no signs of it hampering him. Tate said the team watched tape of the practice and was impressed by a route that Coleman ran. He was stunned to learn that he ran it with the torn ACL.
“Being in the locker room with him, you’ve seen tremendous growth, and I think the coaches would say the same thing,” Tate said. “He’s taken a lot of pride in what he’s done on the field and his study habits. You hate to see a guy who has put so much into it go down like that on the first day. That’s tough. It’s hard for me to even understand what he’s going through now.”
Coleman figured to be the Giants’ third or fourth receiver and primary kickoff returner. Now those jobs will go to others. In team drills on Friday, the starting receivers were Tate and Cody Latimer, with Bennie Fowler seeing some reps with the first team. Russell Shepard and Alonzo Russell had strong practices with the second unit.
Slayton, tabbed by Shurmur as the “most improved” player in the spring, said he should be back soon to add to the depth.
“If anything, with these [injuries] going on, it’s made me extremely eager to get back because of the opportunities that are available,” the rookie said.
Tate, who is in his 10th season, knows that when things like this happen in training camp, it can mean chances for other players to step up and find new roles.
“Our room is kind of going through it a little bit, but it’s a lot of opportunity for guys to make some plays and get extra reps,” he said. “Hopefully we all take advantage of that.”
Notes & quotes: LB Markus Golden was carted off the field with cramps. CB Grant Haley also left practice with cramps . . . TE Evan Engram was held out of practice; the Giants said it was to manage his workload this summer . . . After a shaky first half to his first practice, Daniel Jones looked sharp on Friday. He was 11-for-13 passing, completing nine in a row at one point. As for his performance on Thursday, Shurmur insisted it wasn’t as bad as it looked in terms of stats (he threw seven straight incompletions before his first connection). “He had two deep balls that were dropped that were good throws,” Shurmur said of those early passes. One of them was a long post to Fowler that was juggled and hit the ground. “The guy that needs to learn from that is Bennie,” Shurmur said. “Bennie, catch the ball!”