Scott Simonson has spent the last two and a half months rehabbing his high ankle sprain, trying to stay in shape and coaxing childhood buddies to join him for workouts so he could pummel them and keep his technique sharp.
“My friends back home aren’t nearly as big as any of these guys,” the Giants tight end told Newsday on Wednesday, “so I couldn’t really get the same competition that you get in the NFL.”
On Sunday, he figures to see plenty of that.
With Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison both sidelined by injury and their unofficial availability for the game against the Bears unlikely (neither practiced on Wednesday), Simonson, who was a free agent sitting at home the last time the Giants played a game, will likely be the starter. He’ll make the leap that mid-season acquisitions are sometimes asked to perform, and rarely perform well. He’ll go from the street to starting on the line of scrimmage.
“Thrown right into the fire,” he chuckled.
Of course it’s not as if Simonson is entirely new to the Giants. He was their third tight end last season, behind Engram and Ellison. He played in all 16 games and even caught a touchdown in Week 17. And he probably would have been on the Giants’ roster all along this season had he not sprained that ankle in the preseason finale against the Patriots.
“Scott is a very steady performer and he did a lot of very good things for us a year ago,” Pat Shurmur said on Wednesday.
So much so that there was a lot of surprise when the Giants seemingly cut ties with Simonson by placing him on injured reserve when they did. But what seemed like a short-sighted decision that was decried by many actually could not have turned out any better for the Giants.
Because Simonson was placed on injured reserve before the final cutdowns and then received an injury settlement almost immediately afterward, the Giants gave themselves the opportunity to bring him back at any time after Week 10. Simonson could have signed with any of the other 31 teams in the NFL after seven weeks, and he received some interest about potential workouts around the league, but did not feel he was ready to fully engage his ankle. It wasn’t until after the Nov. 10 game against the Jets that the Giants were allowed to pursue him.
With Engram recovering from his foot sprain and Ellison suffering a concussion against the Jets, they didn’t waste much time in doing so. Nor did he dawdle to get here. After a quick one-hour drive from his home in Howell, N.J., he arrived to ink his new contract on Nov. 12, the earliest possible date he could have re-signed with the Giants.
“They said back when we did the settlement that they did it in that way in case they needed me back,” Simonson said. “It all worked out, oddly enough. I didn’t know about that loophole as far as IR and coming back. But yeah, it worked out.”
Had they not re-signed Simonson, the depth behind Engram and Ellison would include rookie Kaden Smith with Garrett Dickerson on the practice squad. The Giants clearly had to add someone.
“Obviously he was a guy who was on our short list,” Shurmur said. “He came back in, looked good running around, and is most likely going to get an opportunity to play this weekend.”
Simonson said his role on Sunday will probably be “more of the same of what I did last year,” which is mostly blocking in the run game.
“Help 26 get some lanes, let him do his thing,” Simonson said of fellow high ankle sprainee Saquon Barkley. “I kind of know my role. I’m more of an in-the-trenches physical guy. I’ll do that and if they throw the ball to me I’m going to catch it. I’m not going to try to do too much, I’m just going to focus on what I can do. At the same time, I’m getting back into the swing of things.”
At least it’s not an entirely new swing.
“I’m familiar with the system and I missed everyone,” he said. “And I was right there down the road. It all worked out.”