A player’s NFL debut is a special moment. It’s often the culmination of a lifelong dream, a chance to sprint out of the tunnel and onto the field in front of thousands of people and then perform at the sport’s highest level. Some break down in tears over the emotions, others try to harness it and use it in the game.
Sam Beal is past all of that.
“Yeah, the good feelings have kind of been taken away,” he said last week.
Forget all the pomp and hoopla. At this point, the cornerback just wants to play. And sense… relief.
“The feeling of being a rookie is out the window,” he said.
Beal has been a Giant for a relatively long time. He was selected with a third-round pick in the supplemental draft of 2018, which means he has been part of the team for longer than more than half of the active roster. What he hasn’t done is play for the Giants.
A shoulder injury in one of his first practices the spring he joined the Giants required surgery and ended his rookie season. A hamstring injury in the preseason this year landed him on injured reserve. Last month he was designated to return from injured reserve, but he has yet to be added to the active roster. The Giants have until Wednesday to do that.
They could have done it before Monday night’s game against the Cowboys. In fact, it seemed as if they were going to. Beal was so certain that it would happen that he was already prepping himself for the game.
“Come on, now,” Beal said when asked if he could play against Dallas. “I have so much aggression. That’s the perfect team.”
But like all of Beal’s career so far, it was not meant to be.
Beal has been the Giants’ man of mystery since his arrival. He’s rarely even practiced in public view, so no one outside of the team’s coaching staff and front office has any idea what the Giants have in him. He talks with the bravado of a shut-down cornerback, but he hasn’t been able to back it up. He hasn’t been able to even try.
It’s why this possible return feels like a comeback even though he never arrived to begin with.
“As an athlete, when you love this game, when you have a passion for it and you sit out and just watch, it’s not the most fun, it takes a toll on you,” Beal said. “It was kind of tough for me last year, but this year I’m like, OK, I have a tunnel, I have a light, so I can be more calm and take my time.”
That light— the possibility of coming off injured reserve — will last just until Wednesday at 4 p.m. At that point the Giants can either activate Beal (which would require a corresponding roster move) or he will revert to season-ending injured reserve for the second straight season. A second year hurt without ever playing a down.
Beal wasn’t thinking about that, any more than he was thinking about landing on IR when the regular season began. Yet that happened. And there is no guarantee that Beal will be available when the Giants play the Jets on Sunday.
He said he feels healthy and he thinks he has shown the Giants that he can help the secondary in practices.
“With a hamstring, you don’t want to be out there doing [anything] stupid,” Beal said. “I’m running around. As long as I’m out there with the team, learning the calls, that’s perfect for me. They want to see me run straight. The real me. Not the gimpy me.”
At this point, seeing Beal in any condition would be a first. Not that he’s thinking about it in terms of a debut.
“I’m more like, ‘Come on! I’m trying to get out there!’ he said. “But I’m not even thinking about it because I know it’s coming.”