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Sterling Shepard suffers broken left thumb in first practice of camp

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87)

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) makes a catch against defensive back Sam Beal (23) during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ, on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Credit: Brad Penner

Thumb. Down.

Sterling Shepard suffered what could amount to a preseason-ending injury when he fractured his left thumb while making a catch on a low pass in the first practice of training camp on Thursday. The wide receiver, who signed a $14 million extension in the offseason and figures to be the key piece in the Giants’ pass game this season, will have the injury evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

The Giants are confident that Shepard will be ready to play when the regular season opens on Sept. 8, but there is no guarantee that he will be fully healed by then.

Shepard entered his fourth Giants training camp in a new role, as a elderstatesman for the wide receiver corps (he’s the longest tenured Giant in the room) and a leader both on and off the field. No longer overshadowed by Odell Beckham Jr., Shepard said he had been “groomed” to take on his new role as the go-to guy.

Before practice, coach Pat Shurmur said he thinks Shepard has what it takes to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

“Sterling is a football player, and we appreciate his toughness and his ability to make plays, and all the things he adds to the team,” Shurmur said. “He’s a value-added guy in my mind. He plays his position, but he makes the people around him better. I think that’s what all the players should strive to do.”

Shepard stayed on the field in team drills after he suffered the injury even though he came up from the catch grasping the joint. He ran a route on the next play but the ball was not thrown to him. He soon left the practice for x-rays.

The Giants are fairly deep at receiver, even without Shepard on the field for the next several weeks. They signed veteran free agent Golden Tate and also brought back veterans Corey Coleman and Cody Latimer. Shepard, though, was supposed to be the centerpiece of the group.

And he still may be. Just not for a while.

MANNING TO ODELL: LOL

Eli Manning reminded everyone that when it comes to the Giants’ “brand,” he’s got things covered.

Asked on NFL Network on Thursday about comments made by Odell Beckham Jr. in a recent magazine article that the wide receiver was carrying the team’s brand and the main reason why the Giants had so many primetime games scheduled, Manning figuratively flashed his Super Bowl rings.

“I won a few games before he was here,” Manning said.

It was the kind of comeback jab that Manning rarely executes. In fact, the one that stands out was when he delivered a rebuttal to Tiki Barber, another former teammate, who was critical of Manning’s leadership style after the 2006 season.

"I guess I'm just happy for Tiki that he's making a smooth transition into the TV world," Manning said in early 2007. The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that season and that one sentence was often credited for galvanizing Manning as the team’s leader with the ability to stand up for himself.

That was a generation ago. Manning no longer has to assert himself or prove himself in that regard. But Thursday’s comments show that he still can.

As for the rest of Beckham’s claims in the magazine article, Manning said they were entertaining.

"I don't think they bothered me,” he said. “You just kind of shake your head and laugh.”

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