New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard was cleared from the concussion protocol Thursday and is set to return to the field Sunday on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Shepard was injured after initiating a helmet-to-helmet block on a running play during the third quarter of the Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He remained in the game despite teammates’ attempts to get the attention of the coaching staff for a substitution.
“They tried to send somebody in for me and I just kind of waved him off,” Shepard said after Friday’s practice. “It was ultimately my decision, I guess you could say, to stay in.”
The decision to stay in wasn’t supposed to be Shepard’s to make.
Certified athletic trainers are on the sidelines and in the press boxes at every NFL game to make certain players don’t remain in games after showing concussion-like symptoms. These trainers advise officials to have a player removed from a game. Members of the Giants training staff are also supposed to keep an eye out for possible concussions as well.
“It took me a few plays, but I eventually started feeling OK,” Shepard said. “Yeah, I was pretty sure that was a concussion.”
The NFL launched an investigation into the breach in protocol that allowed Shepard to remain in the game. He was asked why he stayed. The answer was not surprising.
“It was a that-moment decision. I felt like I wanted to stay in to help my boys out,” Shepard said.
Head coach Pat Shurmur initially reported Shepard did not tell the coaching staff he wasn’t feeling right until after the game. He was asked Friday about why Shepard’s concussion was undiagnosed and what happened on the sideline during the game.
“I’ve got nothing to add to that because that’s something that’s going on behind the scenes,” Shurmur said.
The scrutiny surrounding Shepard’s concussion is the biggest reason why wide receiver Cody Latimer was promptly removed after he took a shot to the head in last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. Latimer was diagnosed with a concussion and will not play Sunday.
Two additional Giants receivers round out this week’s injury report.
Bennie Fowler is questionable with a hamstring injury suffered in Wednesday’s practice. He is second on the team with 10 receptions. Rookie Darius Slayton (hamstring) missed the entire preseason and the first two regular season games. He practiced this week in full pads on a limited basis and expects to make his NFL debut this weekend.