When wide receiver Sterling Shepard went down with a non-contact injury in the Giants’ Week 3 game last season against the Dallas Cowboys, many people thought it may have been the last time we saw Shepard in a Giants uniform or perhaps even on the football field.
The seven-year veteran was three games into his comeback from an Achilles injury when disaster struck. It was just another in a long line of injuries for the talented receiver, including multiple concussions, a 2017 neck injury, multiple hamstring injuries in 2021, a quad injury the same year, the torn achilles, and now a torn ACL.
Yet, despite the myriad injuries, Shepard told Sports Illustrated last fall that he wasn’t going to let the injuries dictate when his NFL career ended.
“I’m a fighter, so I want to go out on my terms,” he said. “I don’t want something like this to make me go out. So, I’m going to fight to get my body back to where I can perform and get this thing good.”
Entering Giants minicamp this week, it appears that Shepard has made good on his word to get his body ready to be back on the field.
“I’m right on schedule where I wanted to be, a little bit ahead, so that’s always good,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m just trying to take it day-by-day and just focus on getting back to a hundred percent.”
While it’s still too early to put an exact timeline on when Shepard will be at one hundred percent, the veteran receiver is planning for it to be before Week 1.
“My goal is to be ready for the season, so whatever that takes is what I’m going to try to do,” he said. “But I’m also not going to rush it. You get to that time and I’m not feeling right, then that’s just what it’s going to be. But that is my goal and just take it day-by-day like I said and try to be the best I can be that day.”
That patience was echoed by Giants wide receivers coach Mike Groh.
“Whenever, you know, Ronnie [Barnes, Senior Vice President, Medical Services/Head Athletic Trainer] and his staff say that he’s ready to go, he’ll be back out there,” said Groh. “He’s been doing everything from the mental side of things, and, you know, when he gets cleared, he’ll be clear.”
However, Groh is certainly happy that Shepard is back in the wide receivers room after there was some question about whether or not the Giants would bring him back on a new deal this offseason.
“Shep is a great leader and a great ambassador for the Giants organization and somebody that’s very well respected at all levels in this organization and in the community,” said Groh. “He brings a lot of energy and positivity to our group every day and I think that’s important.”
That new one-year contract to return to New York was also incredibly meaningful for Shepard.
“It means a lot, man,” he said on Tuesday. “This organization has been really good to me throughout my playing career, and some of the stuff that’s happened over the years. I’m grateful and thankful and I try to give this organization everything I’ve got just for those reasons.”
However, the road back onto the Giants’ active roster isn’t going to be an easy one.
After battling through a depleted group last year, New York made a concerted effort to rebuild their receivers’ room this offseason, signing Parris Campbell and Jameson Crowder and drafting Jalin Hyatt in the third round. They also re-signed Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins and will have last year’s second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson returning from an injury of his own.
However, the added competition doesn’t worry Shepard.
“It’s probably the biggest receiver group I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here but that’s what we wanted to bring in,” he explained. “We wanted to bring in competition. Some guys run from competition and some people don’t. We’re definitely going to see what we have because we have a lot of guys that can play some good ball.”
If the veteran is healthy, there’s a good chance that the level of ball he can play will allow him to be back running routes for the Giants in Week 1.