Nick Gates snapped to Daniel Jones as the first-string center at Wednesday’s Giants practice, with starter Jon Feliciano (groin) limited, as Gates tries to prove he can play football again.
“It was nice to be back out there and take snaps with Daniel,” Gates said with a smile. “Definitely missed snapping the ball to him.”
Gates, the Giants’ 16-game starting center in 2020, underwent seven surgeries on his lower left leg after last season’s catastrophic Week 2 injury at Washington.
He now has a titanium rod in his leg and a piece of shark skin that doctors grafted to cover and protect the wound.
But he’s working to convince the Giants to activate him off their physically unable to perform list by next Tuesday’s deadline. The team opened Gates’ 21-day window for a possible activation on Oct. 5.
“I’m happy for him,” Jones told the News of Gates’ opportunity on Wednesday. “He’s come so far. That injury is a really tough one. So him being back out there, you can tell how happy he is, the joy he’s playing with. That’s fun to see as a close friend, as a teammate. I’ve got a lot of trust and confidence in him.”
The harsh reality is there still might not be enough time for Gates to get physically ready to play this year, even if he’s trending in the right direction.
Offensive line coach Bobby Johnson said last week that “there’s still been some limitations” on Gates physically. And Gates said Wednesday that going full speed with pads would be his next step, but “I’m not gonna get the pads on before I find out what their plan is with me.”
Players were in shells on Wednesday.
“Whatever they do after that is out of my control,” Gates said. “I can’t let that mess with me mentally or anything.”
Gates took the bulk of the center snaps on Wednesday, though, “except for the last one or two plays of each period.” It was a major step for him.
“Mentally, yeah, we ran our plays today,” Gates said. “I had to make our calls. Before I was only going in for two or three plays and the rest was scout team. The scout team helped me knock off the rust. It helped me mentally today, knowing I’m close to where I need to be at.”
Johnson said last week that he has “a lot of respect” for Gates.
“We look for three things: smart, tough and dependable: Check, check, check,” Johnson said. “So we’ll find a role for somebody who fits those three things that we look for.”
The Giants’ O-line coach said he’s been moving the versatile Gates around the line to find out his best position and said he’s been trying to “temper” Gates’ expectations a bit.
“[If he says] ‘Ah, I did this,’ well you’ve been out for a while, so let’s look at what you did well,” Johnson said.
If the Giants don’t activate Gates, he said: “I think I could go back to I.R. and be around and still hang out with the guys and help out, maybe do some scouting, help the guys out as best I can.”
Hopefully that’s what happens, at the very least. It’s good to see Gates is at least getting a shot to prove what he still has.
Five Giants did not participate in practice as the Giants (5-1) prepare to visit the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) on Sunday: WRs Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Kenny Golladay (knee), OLB Oshane Ximines (quad), S Jason Pinnock (ankle) and CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf).
Four players were limited: RB Saquon Barkley (right shoulder), OT Andrew Thomas (elbow), C Jon Feliciano (groin) and OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf).
Thomas’ elbow injury is on top of the sore left ankle he labored through last Sunday against Baltimore.
Brian Daboll said Barkley’s shoulder did not require any further MRIs or tests and presents no concern handling a full workload Sunday at Jacksonville.
Daboll was asked if he remains optimistic that Toney could return and be a part of this team’s run.
“I do. Yup,” Daboll said.
The coach said he is not considering putting Toney on injured reserve, even though he’s been sidelined since Week 2. This would be Toney’s fifth missed game in a row.