Shepard was injured when he reached down to catch a low pass from quarterback Eli Manning with cornerback Janoris Jenkins defending. Shepard made the catch but got up holding his left hand after the play. He didn’t practice for the rest of the session.
Shepard had an X-ray which revealed the fracture. The Giants say he will miss at least two weeks and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. The NFL Network’s Mike Garofalo reports Shepard’s thumb will take six weeks to heal. This would mean he will miss the entire preseason and be unofficially questionable for the regular season opener at the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 8.
Shepard entered training camp as the Giants’ top returning receiver from 2018. He caught a career-high 66 passes for 872 yards and four touchdowns. He signed a four-year, $41 million extension in the spring. The extension means Shepard will be under contract through the 2023 season.
“I know a little bit is going to be added on my plate, but I’ve 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 receiving room. So, yes, I know there a little bit added to my plate, but I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself. I’m just going to come out and be me.”
Head coach Pat Shurmur said he thought Shepard could become a No. 1 receiver just hours before the injury.
“Sure, I think can be,” Shurmur said. “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’ other receivers could benefit from Shepard’s absence. Outside of Tate, the rest of the receiving corps is a collection of unproven talent. In the short term, Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, and Russell Shepard will see more touches. Rookie fifth-round pick Darius Slayton could be an option as well but he is currently dealing with an injured hamstring.