Giants receiver Golden Tate is facing a suspension to start the season, which could be a huge blow for a unit depleted by injuries.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The status of Sterling Shepard‘s broken thumb and the potential suspension of Golden Tate hasn’t sent the New York Giants scurrying into a panic. They could have looked at some of the bigger-name veteran receivers who are free agents — such as Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, Bruce Ellington or Michael Crabtree — or scoured the trade market. They didn’t.
Instead, they held an inconspicuous workout of four that led to the signings of T.J. Jones and Amba Etta-Tawo. Jones spent four years with the Detroit Lions and Etta-Tawo was with the Giants last summer, but it would be a major upset for either to play a significant role this season.
The Giants have indicated by their actions that they are putting trust in players such as Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and Russell Shepard. Maybe rookie Darius Slayton (hamstring) can get healthy and contribute.
Latimer and Fowler have received extensive first-team looks the past few days of training camp alongside Tate, who can still practice regardless of the impending appeal set for early August. Latimer had a strong practice Sunday and is the most likely to break out. Still, Latimer and Fowler combined have played nine seasons and have never topped 30 catches or 350 yards.
The Giants seem unconcerned by it all.
“We’ll just wait and see what happens with Golden and his appeal,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “You guys saw [Sterling Shepard] running around [Friday] out there. He’s going to be fine. We’ve got other guys that are competing to make our team. We just keep moving.”
It’s an interesting, if not unsurprising approach from these Giants. General manager Dave Gettleman has been transforming this into a run-heavy offense (at least as much as it can be with today’s rules being so slanted toward the passing game) since the day he took over.
It’s a philosophy seemingly better suited for the past. Gettleman is only several decades off. He drafted a running back No. 2 overall, bulked up his offensive line and his biggest move this offseason was trading wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.
Magically, Gettleman uttered 155 words about the Giants’ wide receiver situation Friday and never mentioned Tate’s situation, which the team has known about for months. It’s almost as if he’s pretending a suspension is not going to happen.
The odds are against Tate and the Giants’ optimism bleeding into reality. Tate said the positive test stemmed from a fertility medication he began taking before realizing it contained an illegal substance. He then self-reported it immediately.
The problem is that the NFL doesn’t generally care about your excuses. Players are held accountable for what they put into their bodies at all times. It’s unlikely the Giants will have Tate available early this season, and Shepard is one bad carom or instinctual stab at the ball with his injured left hand during practice from missing Week 1. It’s a scenario that could leave the Giants without their top two receivers in Dallas.
That could be debilitating. Tate alone is a substantial loss.
“His experience and his playmaking ability. He’s a playmaker,” wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said of what they would be missing if Tate gets suspended. “Like I said, all those guys are playmakers. They come here, and they’ve been playmakers before. If you happen to lose someone, regardless of who it is, but talking about Golden, you lose a playmaker. I hope that won’t happen, but … we’ll just let it play itself out with the league.”
So at the moment they turn to Latimer and Fowler. Latimer played well down the stretch when finally healthy last season and had a strong practice Sunday. It just seems a risky proposition to put significant bets on veterans who have such a limited track record of success.
It is entirely possible the Giants come to this realization later in the summer. There is time and Gettleman has not been shy about making trades. He has executed seven deals involving players since becoming general manager over the past two years. Only six teams have been more active on that front.
In the meantime, the Giants are playing this one cool. They are hoping Latimer, Fowler, Slayton or someone else steps up this summer before the situation becomes more urgent.