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Giants' Sterling Shepard ruled OK to play Sunday after clearing concussion protocol

Sterling Shepard of the Giants celebrates his catch

Sterling Shepard of the Giants celebrates his catch in the second half against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on September 29, 2019. Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

The Giants are 2-2 with Sterling Shepard and 0-6 without him, the reasons for which are more complicated than whether Shepard plays, of course.

But still: Having him helps. 

The Giants received a sliver of good news on Friday afternoon when an independent neurologist cleared Shepard to play against the Bears on Sunday. Offensive tackle Nate Solder and cornerback Janoris Jenkins also were cleared through the concussion protocol. 

The case of Shepard is the most delicate. The wide receiver has not played since Oct. 6 against the Vikings. He suffered a concussion that day — his second of the season — and originally was set to return on Nov. 4.

Two days before that game against the Cowboys, Shepard was not feeling well and landed back on the inactive list for two more games.

Giants coach Pat Shurmur said he will treat Shepard as he would any player to whom doctors have given the OK.

“When you’re on the field playing, all of the players are at risk for injury,” he said. “That’s just the reality of this sport . . . Unfortunately, sometimes injuries are part of it. If he’s up and going, he’s going to go.”

Shurmur was asked on a couple of occasions about the sensitivity of the Shepard case. But under the modern NFL protocol for head injuries, decisions on player availability are out of the hands of coaches.

“You don’t want it to happen again,” Shurmur said. “But based on how he’s trained and everything to this point, there’s nothing for us to say he won’t clear and be ready to play. At some point, you just have to trust it and then deal with it if it doesn’t work out.

“In the case of concussions, these are serious injuries that we have to handle in a serious way. There are experts that tell you what’s best. There are experts that tell you that they can or can’t play, and then you just roll with it.”

Shepard was in the locker room after practice, but players in the concussion protocol are not permitted to talk to reporters about their status.

Adding Shepard helps counter a problem at tight end because Shurmur ruled out both Evan Engram (ankle) and Rhett Ellison (concussion). Scott Simonson is likely to start.

Shepard was expected to carry a heavy receiving load this season, but instead the Giants have relied on veteran Golden Tate — at least since Game 5, when his NFL-mandated suspension ended — and rookie Darius Slayton, who has been impressive, with 27 receptions for 394 yards and five touchdowns.

Slayton said Friday he would welcome a return by Shepard, saying the two complement one other stylistically. Slayton said that while Tate and Shepard are “great route runners,” Slayton believes he adds “field stretch-ability to be able to back the coverage up and allow those guys to kind of work underneath.”

Regarding working with the two veterans, Slayton said, “Man, it’s like being in a class with all teachers. They obviously have a lot more NFL experience than I do. I just try to soak up the information.”

Trubisky expected to play

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was not on the team’s injury report after practicing fully this week and is expected to play Sunday after leaving last week’s game against the Rams because of a hip pointer.

New York Sports