EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants‘ first full-team practice of the summer claimed its first casualty Thursday when wide receiver Sterling Shepard fractured his left thumb reaching towards the ground to catch a low pass.
Shepard left midway through the workout to undergo an X-ray that revealed the bad news. The versatile receiver is expected to play a bigger role after the trade of Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason.
The Giants said Shepard, 26, will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. A source told ESPN there is optimism that he will be back before the Sept. 8 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
The injury came just hours after coach Pat Shurmur said he thought Shepard could grow into a No. 1 receiver.
“Sure, I think he can be,” Shurmur said of the fourth-year veteran. “Sterling is a football player, and we appreciate his toughness and his ability to make plays and all the things he adds to the team. He’s a value-added guy in my mind. He plays his position, but he makes the people around him better. I think that’s what all the players should strive to do.”
The Giants are left with recently signed Golden Tate and a group of unproven wide receivers behind him. In the short term, they could now be looking for more from Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler or even veteran Russell Shepard. Rookie fifth-round pick Darius Slayton is also an option, but he is currently dealing with a hamstring injury.
Sterling Shepard had a career-best 66 catches for 872 yards last season. He also scored four touchdowns.
The Giants rewarded him with a four-year, $41 million extension this offseason. With it, there was the belief that there would be more opportunities and an expanded role.
“I know a little bit is going to be added on my plate, but I’ve been groomed and I’ve been prepared for this moment,” Shepard said Wednesday. “With Odell going out the past two seasons, I think I’ve just been groomed for that position, and I’m really just focused on the guys we have in the locker room and the guys we have in the receiver room.
“So, yes, I know there’s a little bit added on my plate, but I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself. I’m just going to come out and be me.”
He’s going to have to do it now without participating in most of training camp and the preseason.