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Sterling Shepard has first full-contact practice and reaffirms he’ll be ready for Week 1

2019-08-19

Doctors cleared Sterling Shepard on Sunday to practice without a yellow non-contact jersey for the first time this training camp. Afterwards, Shepard said his fractured left thumb “feels good” and is “on pace for where we want to be.”

But the Giants’ No. 1 receiver also admitted his thumb isn’t ready for game action. So don’t expect him to dress Thursday in Cincinnati or in the Aug. 29 preseason finale at New England.

“If I could go then I would be going, but I can’t go right now. It’s not ready to play in a game and I know that,” Shepard, 26, said after a short-yet-physical practice. “Give me a couple more weeks and I feel like it will be. So you don’t want to go out there and risk another injury when you can prevent that.”

So is Shepard still on track for the Week 1 regular season opener at Dallas?

“I don’t see anything that could hold me back right now, unless something else was to happen in practice,” he said. “I’m on pace … I wouldn’t say I’m all the way back, but I’m pretty close to where I need to be, so I feel good about that.”

Shepard’s health will be critical out of the gate in September. The Giants re-signed him in April to a four-year, $41 million contract extension with $21.3 million guaranteed in April.

Sterling Shepard believes he and his fractured thumb will be ready for Week 1 against the Cowboys. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Veteran offseason signing Golden Tate, who is already suspended four games for PEDs, is now in the concussion protocol. Coach Pat Shurmur said Tate got hurt in last Friday’s preseason win over the Bears.

It’s unclear when exactly the injury happened. Reviewing the game film, it’s possible Tate was hurt early in the second quarter when he bent down and tried to block Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski on a Paul Perkins two-yard rush. He played one more series after that, though.

Tate also had his left ankle rolled up on earlier in the game by Kwiatkowski on a tackle of teammate Rhett Ellison but stayed in.

Encouragingly, at least, Shepard did look unbothered catching passes in Sunday’s practice while wearing a padded splint on his thumb.

“Yeah it’s not an issue. I feel good,” he said. “I’m doing everything the trainers are telling me to do, and we’re on pace for where we want to be … I put a little pad underneath. One of the doctors suggested it. It helps tremendously, so that’s what I have been doing and it feels great.”

Shepard said he is itching to take off the pad and splint altogether, though.

“I can’t wait to get out of it,” he said. “If I can get out of it tomorrow, I would. They want me to wear it.”

Shepard said “I didn’t think that yellow jersey was doing much anyway,” alluding to passes thrown to him and hits taken while he practiced in it, “so it’s not that big of a difference to be honest.

“I guess it makes guys more cautious of hitting you,” he said, “but I kind of need that contact now.”

He’s broken fingers a couple times before so he expected this recovery time and process.

On Sunday, veteran Russell Shepard seemed to take more first-team reps than usual with Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer. Bennie Fowler and T.J. Jones of course have two TDs apiece to start the preseason.

Still, Sterling Shepard is being paid and counted on as the group’s leader this season.

“I’m going to go out and be myself and let everything take of itself,” he said of shouldering that responsibility. “We have ballers in the room, and when Golden is back it’s going to be a huge help, as well. You see Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer, they make big plays. I have guys that are helping me out. I’m not the only one out there.”

It will be nice, of course, when he’s actually out there in a game.