The X-rays taken of Sterling Shepard’s ribs at halftime were negative, but doctors still felt the Giants wide receiver shouldn’t go back in the game. He was in a lot of pain, had difficulty breathing and stretching, and wasn’t happy about the idea of wearing a restrictive flak jacket for added protection.
Yet there he was, running a deep post route and diving for a football in the end zone on the Giants’ final offensive play of Sunday’s win over the Bears.
“There wasn’t any doubt in my mind,” Shepard said of his desire to return to the action even after the medical personnel initially said he shouldn’t. “They said I wasn’t going to go back out at first, but I felt like I could.”
He wasn’t alone. A number of other players – many of them veterans, many of them recognizable names that the Giants have been counting on with varying degrees of success all season – also were banged up with injuries in Sunday’s game. Saquon Barkley left the field in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. Olivier Vernon limped off with a knee ailment. Landon Collins had to come off the field twice with shoulder issues that also required X-rays (he is expected to miss the upcoming game against Washington).
All of them were back for the final plays of the game with their unit.
When Pat Shurmur talked about the toughness and resiliency the Giants showed in their 30-27 victory over the Bears, it mostly was in terms of the team’s mental attitude and ability to not get pulled down by blowing a 10-point lead late in regulation. But there also was another part to those words that applied to Sunday’s game. The physical part.
At a point in this season when some players on a last-place team might be looking for any nick or ding to give them some downtime, allow them to rest up and start preparing for next year, the Giants players wanted nothing but to get back on the field and make positive impacts for the team in crunch time.
“We like to fight for each other,” Shepard said. “We’re all brothers in here. If me being out there is going to help the team get the W, I’m going to fight through whatever I have. As long as it’s not something really really serious, I’m going to go back out there and fight for my brothers. You saw that around the team, too. I think it shows what type of team we have and the guys are going to lay it all on the line no matter the situation.
“That shows you where this team’s mindset is. We’re not going to give up on each other and we’re going to fight.”
Shurmur appreciated that, reiterating on Monday his admiration for the “toughness and resiliency in a sport where that’s demanded.”
Janoris Jenkins wasn’t hurt on Sunday, but he was playing through a nagging injury earlier this year, a leftover from the ankle surgery that ended his 2017 season.
“It’s showing that we’ve got great guys on this team, guys that love football and love to compete,” the cornerback said of Sunday’s comebacks. “For them to do that, it means a lot to everybody in the locker room and up top and just showing they really like to play football.”
It easily could be going in another direction for the Giants. They’ve won three of their last four, but they’re still 4-8 and still in last place.
“I have heard (about) players that have been on other teams around the league that when the season’s not going your way, a lot of people call it quits,” Barkley said. “You don’t get that vibe when you come in this building, when you play in a game… That just shows and speaks to our character and speaks to the guys on this team and even though it hasn’t been clicking perfectly right now, when this thing does get going, it’s going to make all of this adversity we’ve been going through so much better.”
Shepard said it’s easy to spot a player who is milking an injury.
“You see guys who lay down, it’s easy to point those guys out and maybe think they’re not giving it their all and are not passionate about what they do,” he said.
Most importantly, he said, those players themselves recognize it.
“Guys know it internally if you are not giving it your all and you’re not willing to fight through the pain,” he said. “Guys can feel that themselves. I think it kind of eats you up more than anybody else.”
There certainly are some injuries that require more time and attention than others. On the Giants, though, there don’t seem to be many.
“No, no,” Shepard said. “You saw (Sunday) guys are fighting through a lot… You see that and it makes you want to do the same.”