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Sterling Shepard, the yellow jersey and some unnecessary contact to the Giants wide receiver

Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard catches a pass

Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard catches a pass during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Monday. Credit: Brad Penner

Sterling Shepard caught a pass from Eli Manning in traffic, was hit from behind by rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker, who tried to strip the ball from him, and was brought to the ground in a full-speed seven-on-seven goal-line drill Monday.

All while wearing a yellow jersey that is intended to prevent any of that from happening.

“There are times when people don’t do it exactly the way we want it,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said.

So what is the point of having Shepard out on the field with a fractured left thumb? Shurmur has said he wants the wide receiver to be able to work on his timing, work on his route-running and work on some one-handed catches with his healthy right hand. But it seems strange to subject Shepard to such risk, given his value to this offense and the relative proximity he has to being completely cleared. He said he expects to have the splint on his thumb removed this week.

That play with Baker wasn’t the first time Shepard has found himself in the middle of action he isn’t supposed to find. Earlier in Monday’s practice, he was lining up to run routes against air and Manning threw a fastball in his direction. The ball went through Shepard’s hands and he came away shaking and rubbing that left hand. At that point, a staffer ran up to him and slapped the yellow jersey on him. He sat out a few reps in that drill, then returned and ran some routes with his injured hand and arm pinned closely to his side, trying to make one-handed catches.

Then, in 11-on-11 snaps, Manning tried to hit Shepard with a pass over the middle. Shepard wisely kept his left hand away from the ball and dropped it with two defenders closing in on him.

That play, like the one with Baker, took place while Shepard was wearing the yellow jersey. The one that is supposed to mean do not throw it here. The one that is supposed to mean do not have any contact with this player.

“The fact that he’s wearing a yellow jersey should alert you to the fact that you don’t touch him,” Shurmur said. “At this point, there have been a couple of times where he was tested, but he’s fine .  .  . He’s out there running routes. I think because of what it takes to play, he’s able to do those things.”

There have been times when Shepard has forgotten to put on the yellow jersey (or been reluctant to do so) and run in full-speed team drills without it. If the other players — quarterbacks and defenders alike — are not going to yield when they see yellow, what’s the point of wearing it?

“Any time we’re practicing, we have to be smart,” Shurmur said. “That’s the fine line between trying to get your work in and being smart.”

It’s one the Giants seem to be straddling a lot with Shepard in this training camp.


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