Giants wide receiver Golden Tate runs with the ball during special...

Giants wide receiver Golden Tate runs with the ball during special teams drills at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ, on Sunday, July 28, 2019. Credit: Brad Penner

Golden Tate has been in the NFL for 10 seasons and is on his fourth team. In other words, he knows a lot of players around the league and during the offseason he has no problem rounding up groups of them to train with. Pro football players will often do that, pushing each other to get faster and stronger and better. Even though they may be on different teams, they often share agents or were buddies in college, so they’ll gather in Miami or Los Angeles or anywhere, really, and get to work.

But finding a fellow NFLer to train with in September? That was a new one for Tate.

See, most of them are a little busy at that time of the year.

The Giants wide receiver, who served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, knew he needed to stay sharp during his time away. So he and his wife went to their home in San Diego — because why not? — and that’s where he found his new workout partner. Someone else who was in that nebulous state of not exactly being with a team at the time but was figuring on an imminent return to the field.

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who was holding out through training camp and for the first three weeks of the season became Tate’s workout partner.

The two of them — and former Alliance of American Football quarterback Luis Perez, because someone had to throw them the ball — worked together every day at Fitness Quest 10. They ran routes, took handoffs, caught passes and pondered their futures.

“It definitely helped because he was someone I could compete against,” Tate said. “I’m a really big competitor, and I need to compete in some way at whatever I do. We pushed each other.”

It was also advantageous to have someone who could somewhat relate to his curious view of the NFL’s opening few weeks from outside its mechanisms. Their exiles were not the same, one self-imposed the other punitive, but their perspectives were similar.

“We had some great conversations,” Tate said of his time with Gordon. “I think we’re both glad we’re back.”

The Giants are certainly glad to have their half of that combination back. Tate will give the Giants more flexibility and another playmaker for Daniel Jones to target. The team always envisioned its offense having Tate and Sterling Shepard at receiver, Evan Engram at tight end, and Saquon Barkley at running back. That complete package may have to wait a bit for Barkley’s ankle to fully heal. But it is starting to come together.

That the Giants are 2-2 despite not getting six full games of the 16 possible from those four key ingredients is quite remarkable.

“Obviously he’s a guy that’s played a long time, he’s caught a lot of balls,” quarterback Daniel Jones said of Tate. “He’s a really good player, he gives us another weapon, another tool on offense. Excited to have him back out there for sure.”

Jones was the backup when Tate was last on the field with the Giants in the preseason.

“I worked with him a little bit, the week of the Patriots [preseason] game especially I worked with him a little bit,” Jones said. “We all worked with everyone throughout camp and throughout the preseason. I feel comfortable with him, I think he feels comfortable with me, so I think we’ll be on the same page.”

Tate has caught 611 career passes and played in 137 regular-season games, so he has a good grasp on what it means to be ready for an NFL contest… even if he is jumping onto a moving train.

“With this being my 10th year, I feel like I have a good beat on what to expect,” he said. “I guess the biggest thing would be being used to the physicality of the game. That first time I get out there, getting off a release and actually getting jammed, or getting pads put on me and being knocked off my path. Or when I do make a catch, getting hit and trying to have that body control down to the ground. I would probably say that’s the biggest thing. Maybe the speed. The speed is obviously going to be a little bit more than it is in practice, especially against this defense that flies around. I think I’ll adjust pretty quickly.”

Probably more quickly than he adjusted to not being an NFL player for the past four weeks. Tate said the most frustrating part of being away from the team and on the West Coast was trying to find the Giants games on TV or streaming plans. He’d never had need for any of the programs that allow fans to watch NFL games because he’d always been playing in them.

Now he no longer has to worry about such things. This Sunday he can focus on the Vikings defense, his rookie quarterback, and his long-delayed first game with his newest team.

“These four weeks have been very long for me,” he said. “I’ve just been thinking about football and ready to get back out here and the time is now.”

Those workouts with Gordon may seem like a distant memory come Sunday, but they could come in handy as he reacclimates to the NFL.

“I think it motivated us both,” Tate said of his time with Gordon. “At some point, we knew we were going to go back. I think he went back a little bit earlier than he thought, which was good. We did a good job of keeping each other sharp. There was only three of us out there, but we grinded for sure.”

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