SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Justin Pugh felt good during the week in practice and figured he was ready to return from a back injury that had kept him out the last two games.
The Giants’ right tackle realized a few minutes into the first half of Sunday’s 31-21 loss to the 49ers that he had returned too soon.
“After a series, it started locking up on me,” said Pugh, who left the game in the second quarter and didn’t return. “My back just isn’t where it needs to be to play an NFL game.”
Pugh wouldn’t say whether it was a disc-related issue or a muscle problem, but he believes he needs to make sure to let the injury heal enough to return without suffering a setback like the one that ended his game early. He said he made a similar mistake in returning too soon last year from a knee injury.
“I need time to let it heal up,” said Pugh, who gave up a second-quarter sack to Eli Manning, who fumbled on the play. “I thought I gave it enough time, and obviously, I didn’t. I should have learned from what I did to my knee last year coming back too early. I was feeling good this week in practice. I woke up this morning feeling good. But going out and playing real football today was the trust test, and I didn’t pass that test.”
Asked if he was shocked that the Giants had fallen to 1-8 in a season that began with such high expectations, he said, “It’s definitely shocking. To lose to that team that we lost to is definitely tough. I thought we were going to win today, for sure. It’s definitely tough.”
The 49ers were 0-9 before beating the Giants.
“Lose to an 0-9 team. You can’t get much worse than that,” Pugh said. “We’re at where we’re at. We gotta go figure out where we’re going from here. We have to battle. We have to turn the film on and look in the mirror. There are things in all phases of the game that we’re not executing. It’s not good right now.”
Unfortunately, Pugh isn’t certain when — or even if — he’ll be able to contribute again this season. It’s a significant blow to the team, and also to Pugh, who becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season.