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Giants’ Sterling Shepard staying involved despite injury: ‘Lifts everybody up’

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 1/20/2023 Mark Cannizzaro

It’s killing him. Eating him up inside. 

You’d never know it, though. 

Sterling Shepard’s demeanor two days before the Giants are to play the Eagles in Saturday’s NFC divisional-playoff game in enemy territory at Lincoln Financial Field would lead you to believe he’ll be lacing up his cleats to catch passes from Daniel Jones to try to lift the team to the NFC title game. 

Shepard won’t be doing that. Because he can’t. 

Shepard, the longest-tenured player on the Giants (drafted in 2016), was lost for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in a Week 3 home loss to the Cowboys. 

More often than not in the NFL, when a player is out for the season, he disappears. He comes to the facility, does his rehab and heads home. No team meetings. No locker room hang with the fellas. He’s like a ghost — a guy who’s on the team but isn’t. 

Shepard is the antithesis of that. He has remained omnipresent and is around his teammates every day. 

They need it. And he needs it, too. 

Shepard won’t be suiting up Saturday night in Philadelphia, but he’ll be in the locker room before kickoff as the unofficial “music guy,’’ orchestrating a pregame playlist to stoke up his teammates before they charge out of the tunnel. He’ll be on the sideline cheerleading then back in the locker room after the game. 

© Provided by New York Post Sterling Shepard speaks with Giants receivers during practice on Wednesday. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Head coach Brian Daboll likes to hear “Juicy’’ by Big Poppa after a win, so, as Shepard said, “I’ve got to be on point with that.’’ 

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“He’s an energy-giver,’’ Daboll said Thursday. “He lifts everybody up — coaches, players, staff members. Joe [Schoen, GM] and I wanted him around. He’s a great teammate. He provides a lot of juice. He’s out here at practice every day. He’s one of the better leaders that I’ve been around.’’ 

Shepard is the Giants’ spiritual leader. He’s their hype man. He’s their music man. 

He’s their soul. 

The emotional pain that comes from not playing is far worse than any physical pain he felt when his knee crumbled on the MetLife Stadium turf in September, or when his Achilles tendon ruptured to end his 2021 season prematurely. Yet Shepard embraces every minute being around his mates. 

“They keep me going,’’ Shepard told The Post amid the hustle and bustle of the locker room after practice Thursday. “I don’t thank them enough for how much they do for me mentally. When you’re at home by yourself, thoughts start to creep into your mind. You’re essentially at rock bottom and you want to be around people that make you happy. Other than my kids, these guys keep me going. It’s like the highlight of my day.’’ 

Shepard — who’s played in only one career playoff game (the 2016 team’s loss in Green Bay after the infamous boat trip with Justin Bieber in South Florida) — wants to be on that field in Philly nearly as much as he wants to breathe. 

“It hits me weekly, on game day watching my brothers run out of the tunnel,’’ he said. “It hits me every week the night before a game, because I’ve kind of go by routine, and I’ve been finding myself about to hop into my routine and then it’s like, ‘S–t, I can’t be out there.’ ” 

Safety and team captain Xavier McKinney recalled a poignant moment he witnessed last week in Minnesota for the wild-card game. 

“I saw him before the game — he didn’t see me — but I could just feel it in his eyes he was hurting,’’ McKinney told The Post. “He hasn’t been in that [playoff] situation a bunch of times, and I could feel how much he missed being out there.’’ 

As the final seconds ticked off the clock and the Giants were about to close out the Vikings, defensive tackle Justin Ellis felt compelled to seek out Shepard on the sideline. 

“Your energy is what we need, man,’’ Ellis told him. 

© Provided by New York Post Sterling Shepard is trying to stay involved despite being injured. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Ellis then thanked Shepard. 

“His energy this entire ride has been key,’’ Ellis told The Post. “Usually injured guys come in, get treatment and go home. When you can’t play, it’s hard to mix in with the guys. This is the first time ever in my career that I’ve seen a guy that’s on IR so mixed in.’’ 

Jones, who wishes he was still throwing passes to Shepard, called him “one of those special personalities that lifts everybody up when he’s around.’’ 

Shepard, who turns 30 next month and played this season on a one-year contract with a pay cut, is now processing what lies ahead for him. He said he “very badly’’ wants to remain a Giant. He unabashedly bleeds Giants blue. 

“This is my second home,’’ he said. “I’ve never lived anywhere else in my life, never been a part of another program.’’ 

Here’s hoping Daboll and Schoen lift Shepard in 2023 the way he’s lifted them in 2022 and they give him another year.


New York Post

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