A broken bone in the back sounds like something that should end a player’s season.
For Jabrill Peppers, perhaps not.
The Giants safety suffered a transverse process fracture on Sunday, a dreadful-sounding injury to a bone that protects the spinal cord. But Pat Shurmur said on Monday that Peppers might be able to return to the field at some point in the final five games of the season.
“I guess he can return kind of relative to pain tolerance,” Shurmur said.
That would seem to be exactly the kind of prognosis that Peppers was hoping for on Sunday in the Soldier Field locker room. After struggling to dress and moving gingerly with what was then called a hip injury, he said he hoped to be able to “tough through” whatever Monday’s MRI revealed.
Even with the Giants at 2-9 and on the verge of another early elimination from postseason contention.
“I don’t care about the record, man. It’s just about us showing that we belong in this league,” Peppers said on Sunday. “Me personally, I’ve got a lot to prove. I want to win, and it sucks, but I’m not gonna hold my head [down]. I’m gonna keep coming out there, keep showing everybody that this is gonna be what you’re gonna get.”
Others in the NFL have played through similar injuries, usually while missing a week or two.
“We’re less than a day removed from the game, so he is sore today,” Shurmur said. “We don’t practice until Wednesday, so we’ll just have to see what the week brings.”
Safety is not the only position in which a starter suffered an injury. Wide receiver Golden Tate was placed in the concussion protocol on Monday after coming down hard with a touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter. The Giants just got Sterling Shepard back from his concussion after he missed five games, so they likely will be shorthanded at that spot again come Sunday.
When Peppers missed the second half of Sunday’s game, rookie Julian Love played in his place. Love saw his first considerable action on defense in the game and wound up with a fourth-quarter interception.
“No matter what happens, I’m locked in just like I have been in previous weeks,” he said. “If I’m learning from the sideline, I’ll be learning. If I’m learning on the field, I’ll try to progress in any way that I can.”
Peppers endorsed Love as his replacement.
“I already told y’all, Julian is gonna be a big player for us,” Peppers said. “I think he did a real good job of picking up the slack after not getting many reps at practice, and that’s a tribute to him. He did a hell of a job.”
The Giants do have other options, including veteran Michael Thomas and second-year player Sean Chandler. If Love starts, the Giants could have three rookies in their secondary with DeAndre Baker at one cornerback and Corey Ballentine in the slot. At one point on Sunday, the Bears had three receivers lined up to the left of the ball against those three.
“I think the biggest thing is seeing stuff you haven’t seen in practice,” Love said. “The biggest goal is to communicate with each other and be on the same page.”
The Giants also used a rotation at cornerback between Baker and Sam Beal that seemed to work well. Shurmur said the team wanted to get Beal steady reps at the spot.
“I thought Sam had some good plays and I liked the fact that he was healthy and able to be in the game playing corner,” Shurmur said. “We got to see what we really liked about him.”
As for Baker, the first-round pick who had struggled (but played well on Sunday) and saw his reps essentially cut in half, Shurmur said he did not pick up on much of a reaction.
“You don’t see much response from DeAndre in those types of situations,” Shurmur said. “When he’s out there playing, he’s playing, and when he’s standing there, he’s watching attentively.”