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Ryan Nassib's life as a backup quarterback in the NFL: Mimic the opposing QB in practice

Giants' Ryan Nassib throws during the second half

Giants' Ryan Nassib throws during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Indianapolis. Photo Credit: AP / Chris Howell

When Ryan Nassib trotted out to Giants practice on Wednesday, the first question he had for the coaches was about the depth chart. He wanted to know who would be starting at quarterback because that would affect his role throughout the week.

Not starting at quarterback for the Giants. For Washington.

Because even though Eli Manning was on the injury report for the first time since the week of the NFC Championship Game after the 2011 season -- and dealing with a football-related injury during the season for the first time since 2009 -- Nassib knows there is very little chance things will change for him.

He'll still be in charge of running the scout team, pretending to be Washington's quarterback against the Giants' starting defense. Colt McCoy? Robert Griffin III? Kirk Cousins? That's the quarterback decision that most directly impacts him.

He plays quarterback for every team on the Giants' schedule.

Just not the Giants.

Such is the life of Manning's backup. For more than 10 years now, no one other than Manning has started at quarterback for the Giants. Only eight times since he suffered that foot injury in 2009 has he not finished a game, and all of those occasions were because of lopsided scores.

In 2010, Sage Rosenfels was Manning's backup. He was the holder on field goals and extra points but played quarterback only once, in a blowout win over Seattle. He didn't throw a pass, but at least he got to take a few snaps.

Not David Carr. He was Manning's backup in 2011 and never got on the field once. He has a Super Bowl ring from a season in which his uniform didn't need laundering.

So having Manning on the injury report barely even registered with Nassib. No increased urgency, no jitters about a potentially larger role. He didn't even know about it until reporters surrounded him after practice.

"I do the same thing I've been doing all year preparation-wise," Nassib said. "It's just now I get a couple more throws in at practice, which is a little more helpful for me. I got a couple of reps in there early in the week."

How many reps?

"You lose count," Nassib said -- not because the number is so large but because it is so small. "It's the kind of plays that he's already had a lot of reps in and he already has a good feel for. He won't miss much by not taking them."

Nassib was selected with the fourth-round pick in 2013 and the Giants publicly stated that they hoped he would never play. So far, they've almost gotten their wish. Nassib has appeared in only two games, both times mopping up blowout victories. He's thrown five passes in his NFL career. That's only four more than Odell Beckham Jr. has thrown.

And Nassib is coming to grips with it.

"To be honest with you, I haven't thought about it," he said of his lack of playing time. "It's Coach's decision and whatever Coach says goes. I just follow the program."

Even now, with Manning working through some sort of back issue -- he refuses to classify it as an injury -- there seems little chance that Nassib will get in Sunday's game. Not even the disappointment of being 4-9 will make Tom Coughlin take a peek at the future and see, just for curiosity's sake, what Nassib can do in a real game. The last time he took extensive snaps was in the preseason.

"We're trying to win games," Coughlin said. "Not that Ryan couldn't help us in that capacity . . . For us, it's win, win as many games as we can. Ryan's had extensive work on the practice field. He's done an outstanding job with the scout team. He has shown the ability to do a lot of different things, some different from Eli. He's making good progress."

But it's still Eli's team. Eli's job. Eli's position. Eli's snaps. Back injury or not.

"He's a tough cat," Nassib said. "He's been like that his whole career. Does a good job taking care of his body and stuff like that. There's no doubt that he'll be ready to go. Whether he's full strength or whatever, his mental preparation for the game is going to be full strength. When you prepare like he does, if you are a little bit behind the eight ball physically, you'll be able to compensate."

So Nassib goes about his business, spending his weekdays mimicking other teams' starting quarterbacks -- guys who actually get a chance to play in games -- and then each Sunday climbing into a box on the sideline that has the words "Break Glass In Case Of Emergency" etched on it.

One day, that emergency will be real. Until then, just like practices this week, it's all just a drill.

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