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NFL's 2020 injured reserve rules minimize blow of Sterling Shepard injury

Sterling Shepard #87 of the New York Giants

Sterling Shepard #87 of the New York Giants runs a reception during the third quarter against Mike Hilton #28 of the Pittsburgh Steelers for a first quarter at MetLife Stadium on Monday, Sep. 14, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The 2020 version of just about everything has been pretty awful. The one exception may be the 2020 version of the NFL’s injured reserve list.

Normally, it is a designation that means a player’s season is over. But this season, because of COVID-19 and other concerns, it is far less of a final resting place. And it is why the Giants placing wide receiver Sterling Shepard on the list on Wednesday with a turf toe injury is not as dire as it may seem.

Shepard will be eligible to return at any point after Week 5, though it is unclear exactly how much longer he will need for an injury that can linger throughout a season. The one-time-only rules require any player on injured reserve to miss just three weeks of action before being reinstated to the active roster, and teams can use it an unlimited number of times.

"I’m all in favor of it," Judge said of the rule on Wednesday, having already used it for LB David Mayo and S Xavier McKinney at the start of the season with the expectation that both can return at some point, Mayo perhaps as soon as next week. "I think we want all of our players to play as much as they can. I’m sure other coaches in the league feel the same way. The way the circumstances have happened with the IR situation of getting players back, I think it’s in the best interest to have players playing. Fans want to see players play, I’m sure owners want to see players out there that they are paying, playing. Coaches want to see guys on the field. I’m all in favor of it, personally."

It does mean that the Giants will be without Shepard for at least a little while, though.

"Sterling is going to do everything he can to get back," Judge said. "He’s a tough dude. I have a lot of respect for him, the way he tried to go in the other day early in the second half playing through pain… I’m looking forward to when we get Sterling back out there working with the team. He’s definitely a guy that brings a lot of juice on the grass at practice. He’s a guy that competes 100 percent for us in the games."

In the meantime, the Giants will have Golden Tate and Darius Slayton as their top two receivers and ask C.J. Board and Damion Ratley to play larger roles in the offense.

"The good thing about this group is a lot of the guys, really all of the guys, they know multiple positions," wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said this week. "So we’ll move and adjust accordingly. It’s a great opportunity for some other guys to step up and make some play so we’ll just kind of plug and play, if you will."

Added Judge: "We’ve got good players on our roster. We have confidence in those players. Everybody has to come out and execute. We have to put them in the right positions as coaches to make sure they can make plays."

NOTES & QUOTES: The NFL inspected the turf at MetLife Stadium on Wednesday, but the 49ers’ gripes about it seem to have subsided. "I’ve moved on for my own self," Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday after being critical of the "sticky" surface and speculating that it led to the rash of injuries suffered by his team in its game against the Jets on Sunday. "It’s pretty out of sight out of mind for myself." Judge, too, seemed done with the topic. "I’ve had no conversations with the NFL on the field," he said. "I’ll let them take care of that. We’ve been fine with it" … Shanahan said he expects Nick Mullens to start at quarterback for the Niners on Sunday with Jimmy Garoppolo dealing with an ankle injury. "I’d be surprised if Jimmy is ready," he said. "We’re still trying to hold out hope. We’ll see at the end of the week. But right now we’re going as if Nick is playing."

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