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Give Nate Solder and rookie Will Hernandez credit for perfect attendance

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning #10 lines

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning #10 lines up behind offensive guard Will Hernandez #71 and offensive tackle Nate Solder #76 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey on August 9th 2018. Credit: Daniel De Mato

The Giants have played 956 offensive snaps this season.

So have offensive linemen Will Hernandez and Nate Solder.

In fact, they’re the only two players on the team who have gone through the first 15 weeks of the season without missing a single play on either side of the ball. And they have one more game to get through to earn the award for perfect attendance.

Not that they care. After all, they’re offensive linemen.

“To me, it’s nothing special,” Hernandez said. “It’s just me doing my job. They didn’t bring me here to play half of the snaps. They didn’t bring me here to play three-fourths of the snaps. To me, it’s just come in here and do what I’m supposed to do.”

Hernandez is one of three rookies in the NFL who have been on the field every time their team has snapped the ball. The two others are Colts guard Quenton Nelson and Cardinals center Mason Cole.

He has a long way to go to achieve all-time ironman status, though. David Diehl started every game for the first 7 1/2 seasons of his career with the Giants and went 127 straight regular-season and postseason games without missing a play.

That gives Hernandez something to shoot for.

“I never want to come in and just play some snaps . . . ,’’ he said. “I want to do good all the time and be in there all the time.”

It’s so unique to go a full season without missing a play that Solder, in his eighth NFL season, has never accomplished the feat. The closest he came was in 2012, his second season with the Patriots, when he played in 1,236 of the team’s 1,239 snaps. Yeah, he missed three.

And he remembers why. In one game, he had issues with his cleat. It kept falling off and the equipment staff had to jerry-rig an extra hole in the top of his shoe to keep the laces taut. In another game, he lined up as a tight end. Because he had declared as an eligible receiver, he had to come out of the game before returning at tackle.

“When I was a tight end [in college], I felt like I wasn’t really involved with the game,” Solder said. “But when you are in for every single snap, your fingerprint is on each game, and I really like having that. It puts more stress on you because the way you play is the way the offense plays, that sort of thing, but I like being involved in everything and I like being active and participating in every play. It’s really cool.”

That the Giants have two guys close to playing every down of the entire season is interesting. That they line up next to each other for each of those snaps is, Pat Shurmur said, beneficial.

“I think the left side, because of the consistency, has been able to get better quicker than, say, the right side, where we’ve had guys in and out of the lineup,” he said. “And that’s what you want. Ideally, you want to pick five guys and they stay healthy the whole year because there is so much coordination to playing together. That’s ideal. We all know that’s unique when that happens. But the fact that those guys have been able to play next to each other for every snap, I think, is helpful to them.”

It’s also made them accountable to each other.

“We kind of feed off of each other and depend on each other,” Hernandez said. “It pushes us a little more.”

The keys to such durability can be found on many levels.

“You’d hope that your players would be out there for every snap,” Solder said. “There’s the fortune of not having some injury or something like that, which can happen to anyone, so I’m thankful for that. And there’s the grind of it. You just keep getting your body ready and being on top of it every week.”

There also is the matter of luck. Like not having a cleat come off, the way Solder’s did in 2012. Not having a busted chinstrap or a finger poke in the eye or anything else that can cause a player to head to the sideline, even if just for a moment. Just for one play.

“It’s very rare,” Shurmur said. “Extremely rare because of equipment. That does happen at times.”

He paused to reflect on Hernandez and Solder.

“They do a good job of tying their shoes, I guess.”

They do a good job on the field, too. That’s why the Giants continue to trot them out there game after game, play after play.

That, Hernandez said, is what means more to him than the actual snap count.

“It means coaches can depend on me, they trust me to keep me in there,” the rookie said. “It’s a satisfying feeling knowing that they can count on me. And that’s how I want it to be for the future, too. I want the coaches and my teammates to always know that they can depend on me and I’ll always be reliable.”

And, so far, always available.

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