Sterling Shepard had to chuckle at the absurdity of the situation.
He was waiting for an MRI on his left ankle at the Hospital for Special Surgery on Monday when all of a sudden Odell Beckham Jr. showed up. And then Brandon Marshall did, too. The three of them, supposed to be the cogs in a dynamic passing game for the Giants this season and the engine to a championship push, all less than 24 hours removed from leaving Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium with ankle injuries, lined up to go into the tube as if it were the helix at the Lincoln Tunnel.
“I thought I was going to see Dwayne,” Shepard said of Dwayne Harris, the fourth Giants receiver who was injured in the game. Unlike the others, Harris had a broken bone in his foot. That required only X-rays, not an MRI.
By the time they came out of their tests, only Shepard’s season had survived. He suffered a sprained ankle, similar to the one he had in training camp this summer, and will miss a few weeks. His teammates received much worse news. By Monday night Beckham was in and out of surgery to repair a fracture to his left ankle while Marshall (ankle stabilization) and Harris (broken fifth metatarsal) underwent their season-ending procedures Tuesday.
All three surgeries were performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, especially for one unit,” Shepard, who was walking with a boot on his left foot, said Tuesday of the Sunday carnage. “It was like one guy after the other coming into the training room (on Sunday).”
It has left the Giants with an almost entirely new stable of receivers for Eli Manning to get used to and play with Sunday in Denver, and it has ripped the soul from a team that began the season with title aspirations and now is bracing for the long slog through the final 11 weeks of the season.
“You just have to keep plugging,” Shepard said. “You have to know now you are playing for the guys who are hurt, those guys who wish they were out there every week.”
The depth chart at receiver Sunday will likely be Roger Lewis Jr., Tavarres King, Travis Rudolph and Ed Egan, the last two of whom were promoted from the practice squad this week and have never played in an NFL game. Lewis is the only one of the bunch who has been on the roster all season.
To put that group in perspective, it’s pretty close to the crew of receivers the Giants used in their fourth preseason game about a month and a half ago, when they rested all of the players they planned to be counting on during the regular season.
Manning said the good news — or at least the not-as-bad news — is that none of them is completely new to the team or the offense. All four spent at least some time with the team in training camp.
“I think it’s different when you bring in a guy who is brand new to the system,” Manning said Tuesday. “Then you’re working all week just to make sure he knows what the routes are, knows what the adjustments are, knows everything. So, with these guys, some of them have been here two or three years. They know what they’re doing. They were just here a few weeks ago, so they’ll be ready.”
They have little choice. Everyone else has gone down the tube.