Healthy Sterling Shepard key to Giants’ playoff push

Healthy Sterling Shepard key to Giants’ playoff push

It has been a quiet season for Sterling Shepard, but at least he has shaken off his injury issues and managed to stay on the field as the Giants embark on the stretch run of their season.

Shepard went down with a turf toe injury in Week 2 and missed four consecutive games, damaging an already-thin wide receiver corps. Since his return, Shepard is limited in practice every week, as he avoids putting unnecessary wear and tear on his still-healing toe.

“Just trying to manage my foot throughout the week and get to the game, and just trying to be focused and help the team in any way I can,’’ Shepard said. “That’s the type of player I am and that’s what I’ll continue to be.’’

In the last four games, Shepard has 26 receptions for 219 yards and his only touchdown. He is averaging a career-low 8.7 yards on his 34 receptions this season, serving as a reliable third-down option but not making many big plays down the field. After missing six games in 2019 dealing with issues from multiple concussions, Shepard’s availability in the second half of this season is a key part of the offensive formula.

“That’s this game, it’s NFL football,’’ Shepard said. “Stuff happens like that, so you’ve just got to take it for what it is and keep on moving. That’s what I’ll keep on doing, keep moving and keep pushing.’’

CB James Bradberry for the second straight day was excused from practice to attend to a family matter. Kevin Zeitler (concussion) was a full participant and is on track to return to his place in the starting lineup at right guard.

The Giants on Thursday were pulling for Washington to beat the Cowboys, as the Giants swept the season series from Washington and thus own the tie-breaker in the NFC East. The Giants lost their first game this season to the Cowboys.

“I don’t know who I’m going to root for there,’’ quarterback Daniel Jones said. “Thanksgiving we’ll be working for a large part of it. But it’ll be nice to have some time off and relax a little bit. Obviously, with COVID this year, it’s a little bit harder on everyone. But yeah, I’ll catch some of those games. I don’t know who I’m going to root for yet. We’ll see how the game goes.’’

The Giants were on the field on Thanksgiving, but it was a shorter workday than usual. They held their morning meetings remotely, held a normal practice and were able to leave the facility by 1:30 p.m. to celebrate the holiday. The earlier-than-usual start is popular with most players.

“Most of the guys don’t mind that,’’ head coach Joe Judge said. “It gets them kind of going and into the flow of thing.’’

Thursdays are for situational football work. The Giants put in their two-minute, third-down and red-zone packages.

“Thursday is a big day for us,’’ Judge said. “We want to make sure that we take time, we understand that it is still Thanksgiving. There’s certain days of the year you have to make sure you dedicate. Family is a critical part of it, friends are a critical part of it. We have to make sure that when the work’s done we can go home. They can kind of relax. Spend a little time with their loved ones.’’