Saquon Barkley jogged over to Sterling Shepard as the Giants’ wide receiver was being carted off the field in Monday’s fourth quarter loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The look Shepard gave him told Barkley the news on his left knee was likely as bad as he feared.
“I’ve been in that situation. Everyone’s around you when they do the test [on your knee],” Barkley said. “So I kinda just tried to get a sense and read what happened. He just gave me a look of disappointment.
“I’ve been through this process,” Barkley added. “So I’m definitely gonna be there to help if it is that. But also [I’ll] go to sleep, say a prayer and hope for the best. You never know.”
Coach Brian Daboll confirmed “it didn’t look good on what I saw.”
Shepard rehabbed from last December’s torn left Achilles to be ready for the Giants’ Week 1 win in Tennessee. He even caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in that 21-20 win.
But he suffered a cruel fate Monday, dropping to the MetLife Stadium turf in agony with a non-contact injury on the Giants offense’s final play.
A family member or friend was seen wiping tears from her eyes as she was escorted into the Giants’ locker room postgame. The players were all despondent.
Daboll had given Shepard a day off from practice last Wednesday to rest the receiver’s Achilles and body, given the heavy workload he’d endured through the first two weeks (80% of the offensive snaps).
But on his 54th snap of Monday’s game, his leg gave out. His final catch, perhaps as a Giant, was a 12-yard completion from Jones to start that final drive.
Shepard, the longest tenured Giant dating back to his 2016 draft selection, was only back on a one-year contract after taking a paycut to stay with the team.
“It definitely hurt me when I saw him go down like that, grabbing his knee, still hurts,” receiver Kenny Golladay said. “Almost choked me up a little bit to be totally honest. I know how much he’s put in and how much he cares about it. And that’s tough.”
Safety Julian Love called Shepard the Giants’ “heart and soul.” And Barkley, who might be Shepard’s best friend, took it as hard as anybody.
“When I saw Shep, I was kinda like what the heck is happening?” he said, recounting the play that Shepard went down. “In that moment, you see him on the ground, I didn’t even wanna walk over there. I just dropped, said a quick prayer. It’s really tough. He got a lot of injuries recently and it’s hard to come back and battle from an Achilles. And then to go down on a play like that? It’s tough.”
KENNY DROPS THE BALL
Golladay played 22 snaps on Monday night, up significantly from his two snaps against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. But he finished with no catches on three targets, including a bad drop on a third and 13 Daniel Jones pass in the fourth quarter that would have extended a drive while trailing, 20-13.
“I missed one opportunity that wish I had it back,” Golladay said. “[That was] me just not looking it all the way in, me just trying to make a play for the team and get upfield, running before you really secure the ball. That’s pretty much all that was.
“Stuff that can’t happen especially when eight [Jones] is pretty much doing everything to get us the ball and get us in the position to win the football game,” the veteran receiver added. “I want to be a guy that can make that play. So I definitely put that on myself. It’s third down and that can’t happen.”
Golladay said “I’m beating myself up” about the drop. He also said he “didn’t see” Monday’s NFL.com report about a possible trade.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” he said. “I just got done with a game.”
The report presented scenarios that the Giants might find amenable to offload the disgruntled veteran. Also, it noted that the Giants might be willing to eat the bulk of Golladay’s expensive contract to get rid of him in exchange for a late-round pick.
It amounted to an invitation for the NFL’s other 31 teams to call. Time will tell if anyone does. The reality is that while GM Joe Schoen has looked to drum up action on his receiver, he hasn’t found any takers yet this year.
Some Giants and Cowboys players were pushing and shoving after the game. Edge rusher Jihad Ward said one of the Cowboys’ rookie tight ends, either Jake Ferguson or Peyton Hendershot, was “talking crazy” while he and Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence were saying “what’s up.”
“We tried to push him back to the tunnel,” Ward said of the Cowboys tight end. “I guess he[’s] happy, but I’m gonna let you be happy. Laugh now, cry later, that’s all I gotta say, you know what I mean?”
Love said “there is animosity” between the Giants and Cowboys.
“We don’t like them at all,” he said. “They don’t like us. Things boil over.”
Center Jon Feliciano said he got in the middle of the pushing and shoving “to make sure none of our guys got in any extra trouble and missed any games.”
Barkley on how he executed his touchdown run: “We ran the same play earlier. I cut it back and Malik [Hooker] made a really good tackle for like six yards. So I kinda knew what I was gonna be able to do if the opportunity came again.” … Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said the Cowboys run-blockers “out-leveraged” the Giants’ defenders. “They found the little seams and squeezed through it,” he said. Asked if Leonard Williams’ absence on the defensive line was the reason for Dallas’ dominance on the ground, Lawrence said; “Nah. they [weren’t] challenging us inside. They were trying to get the edges and that’s what they were getting.” … Lawrence was livid on one third down in the second half because he was being subbed off the field. “It’s a divisional game so the stakes are higher,” he explained. “I wanted to do all I can to help the team win. And I can do that being on the field … and help leading from the sideline.” … Shepard was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct in the third quarter for leaving the Giants’ sideline to challenge Cowboys players after a late hit on Jones by Dallas defensive end Sam Williams. It was a surprising lack of discipline from Daboll’s sideline that will have to go addressed this week … Kicker Graham Gano had his right foot stepped on inadvertently late in the game by tackle Devery Hamilton. Gano finished the game, though.
WILLIAMS SITS FOR FIRST TIME
Williams missed a game due to injury on Monday for the first time in his NFL career. A sprained MCL in his right knee kept him out. Williams had played in 114 consecutive games from 2015-22 for the Jets (71) and Giants (43) prior to Monday’s scratch.
The Giants’ other inactives were WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring), WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), CB Aaron Robinson (appendix), CB Nick McCloud (hamstring), CB Justin Layne (hamstring) and healthy LB Tomon Fox.
Toney’s start to his second NFL season: In Week 1, seven snaps and two rushes for 23 yards. In Week 2, 28 snaps and two catches for zero yards.
Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari were both active Monday for the first time this season. Thibodeaux, this year’s No. 5 overall pick out of Oregon, made his NFL debut.
The Cowboys’ inactives were QB Dak Prescott (right thumb), WR Michael Gallup (knee), S Jayron Kearse (knee), TE Dalton Schultz (knee), OL Connor McGovern (ankle), OLB Luke Gifford and CB Nahshon Wright.