There are players on the Giants’ roster bubble who may be playing in their final game for a while when they take the field against the Patriots on Thursday night. And then there is Josh Mauro, who knows he will be.
Mauro, a defensive lineman signed during the offseason, is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. That sentence begins over the weekend, when the team will make its roster cuts and Mauro will be placed on the suspended list.
“It’s an adjustment,” Mauro said Monday of his preseason that has been building toward a month of inactivity. "It’s new. It’s something I haven’t been through and won’t go through again. It’s a different feeling. You’re really fine-tuning, and usually around this time is when you are getting ready to go.”
Mauro said he has worked out a plan with strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman to maintain and even improve his fitness during the hiatus. He’ll stay nearby, he said, working with weights and conditioning.
“In a perfect world I’ll train, come back, hopefully in better shape, and still have my technique and be able to go right in,” Mauro said. “I know the defense, it won’t be a mental thing. It’ll be just physically hands and feet and eyes retraining for a couple of days before we play…. Obviously, you can’t simulate football. There aren’t a lot of 300-pound guys who can move and are good with their hands. They don’t grow on trees, so it’ll be hard to get that simulation.”
The Giants have a plan for while Mauro is with them, too. Lately that’s included increased reps and even some with the starting unit.
“We’re training him as much as we can until he’s going to leave us for a month, so to speak,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We’re going to try to get as much training as we can until he’s not with us.”
Mauro said he has sought out advice from players who have missed time like this, but not from anyone who has been suspended. Mostly they’ve been injured. The hardest part of the process, Mauro expects, will be on Sundays, when the Giants play games without him.
“It’s gonna be agonizing,” he said. “It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna [stink]. This will be the first time in September that I’m not playing football in 17 years.”
Mauro said he doesn’t plan to change his approach for Thursday’s game, knowing that it will be the last time on a field for a while. He’ll just go out and play while he still can. After that, off he goes.
“I’ll serve my time and then I’ll be free,” he said. “I understand and I respect the policy and everything. But it’s gonna be agonizing, though.”