The New York Giants welcomed veteran WR Sterling Shepard back on Sunday after activating him off the PUP list. Shepard practiced with the team for the first time since tearing his ACL in Week 3 of last season, all the way back in September. Now Shepard is healthy and thrilled to be back with his teammates following a long road to recovery this offseason.
Shepard says he briefly contemplated retirement following scary knee injury
After tearing his ACL on the final drive of the Giants’ Week 3 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, Shepard briefly contemplated retirement in the locker room. But he quickly shot down that idea just moments after being carted off the field. Shepard said he made his mind up by the time he reached the trainer’s room.
“It was pretty much that fast. When I was sitting on that table and I knew I tore it, I had to really sit down and think about it. Ultimately, I came to ‘I don’t want to end my career this way.’ I would like to be the one to say, ‘I’m gonna walk away from the game’ than let an injury and just quitting on myself. So, that ran across my mind. At the same time, I view myself as a mentally strong person and I got that thought out of there real quick when I just made it up in my mind that I was gonna come back and give it another go.”Sterling Shepard via Giants.com
Injuries have piled up for Shepard who is entering the eighth season of his career. Shepard has missed at least five games with injuries each of the past four years. He has played in only 10 games across the past two seasons.
Despite mounting injuries, the 30-year-old wideout is determined to get back to full strength and help the Giants win football games in 2023.
Shepard is thrilled to rejoin his Giants teammates at training camp
Shepard took the practice field on Sunday morning and rejoined his teammates for the first time since tearing his ACL.
“It feels great, man,” Shepard said to the media following Sunday’s practice. “Just to be back out there with the guys and actually going against somebody. I’ve been sitting over there for months, running routes by myself and just trying to visualize somebody there. To actually have somebody honestly was 10 times better. I wasn’t even thinking about my planting or anything like that. I felt great, so it was good to be back out there with the guys.”
The Giants will be working Shepard back in slowly
Head coach Brian Daboll said on Sunday that the Giants will work Shepard back slowly from his injury to ensure he reaches 100% strength.
“We will limit him, relative to the amount of reps and just kind of bring him along,” coach Brian Daboll said. “He has done a good job in the rehab process. So, he was ready to get taken off.”
Shepard believes he will have an easier time getting back to 100% this offseason than he did last offseason. He also suffered a season-ending achilles injury in 2021, but that injury occurred in December. This most recent injury occurred in September, giving Shepard plenty of time to get back to strength.
“I had a week of practice before my first game,” he said. “I hadn’t been contacted the whole offseason, then you go through a full camp where you build conditioning. And conditioning is huge. A lot of times you see guys get injured because they’re not in condition. I’m the type of guy who’s not gonna hold myself back. I’m gonna throw myself out there. It’s great having a full camp to be able to work on that conditioning and going against guys, getting contacted. That’s helpful.”
Sterling Shepard is fighting to make the Giants’ final roster this summer
The Giants went into training camp with 15 wide receivers on their roster. It’s a crowded room and, despite being New York’s longest-tenured player, Shepard is not a lock to make the final roster. He will be competing with a slew of slot receivers that Big Blue brought in this offseason.
New York extended Shepard on a one-year deal this offseason, giving him a chance to prove himself one last time. But Shepard said he is not worrying about the possibility of missing the final roster cut and is focusing on improving his game and getting back to full strength.
“I don’t worry about how it’s going to shake out. I just worry about where my feet are right now. What can I do to get better? Whatever the training staff has me do, how can I get better if they’re going to have me sit out today? That’s the situation I’m in right there. I’m going to listen to them, but when I’m on the field, that’s my job. I’m supposed to get open, catch the ball, that’s what I’m focused on. Whatever decision or however it shakes out, that’s just the way it shakes out. It isn’t anything that I can do about it but do what I do, so that’s the way that I approach it. Every day.”Sterling Shepard via Giants.com
For Shepard, the key to making the final roster will be his health. There is no question that Shepard is one of the strongest leaders in the Giants’ locker room. When healthy, Shepard is a dependable, and efficient receiver from the slot and on the outside. But he has new competition this summer and in order to win a roster spot, Shepard will need to stay healthy and beat out some younger, healthier options on the Giants’ roster.