Eli Manning is in his 13th season as the quarterback of the Giants. He’s accomplished just about every goal the franchise and fans set out for him when he joined the club back in 2004.
So why would he apologize to a rookie receiver for not targeting him in the passing game one week? Manning doesn’t want his young teammate to lose confidence, not after the rapport they’ve been built over the past few months.
“I apologized for not getting him a catch,” Manning said on Tuesday. “We need to get him the ball and get him catches. That’s just the way the day kind of went. He’s done a good job all year and we have to get him involved in the offense. It’s just all based on coverage. What we were trying to do and the coverages that we were getting, we had other guys that were the primary. We just didn’t get it down to him. Had a couple of opportunities that we could’ve possibly got him the ball.”
Instead, Manning utilized the other assets he has. Odell Beckham, Jr. had six catches for 96 yards and 2 TDs while Victor Cruz had a key 37-yard reception and Dwayne Harris caught a 13-yard TD. Shepard was used, but it was in the run game. He had a pivotal 22-yard reverse late in the game that set up Beckham’s second touchdown which put the game out of reach.
“He just came up to me in the weight room. He didn’t have to apologize to me,” said Shepard. “He just said, ‘You are a big part of the offense and we need to get you involved.’ He was just apologizing to me, but it is all good.”
Shepard has 44 receptions for 486 yards and five touchdowns through the first 11 games and is in the top three in all three categories for rookies this season. He has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of the Giants’ offense.
“I know that I am going to be able to touch the ball, especially next game and moving forward,” he said. “That is why I am not making a big deal about it. It was kind of weird because I usually get that first touch and get hit the first time and I hadn’t had that feeling and I was like, ‘Ah.’ But I know it is going to be alright and we came out with the W, like I said, so that is all that matters at the end of the day.”
The Giants will be in Pittsburgh this week and Shepard is looking towards that game and the rest of the season.
“I want to get to the next game and get my hands on the ball,” said Shepard. “But yeah, it gets you ready, but you have to stay focused. I just kind of flushed it down the toilet. It is over with, we are on to the next week and we are focused on Pittsburgh.”
Shepard is all-in on the Giants’ mission. He will do whatever it takes to help this club reach the postseason and beyond.
“This is a crucial part of the season for us, so we have to be locked in. Coach McAdoo is doing a great job of taking care of our bodies this late in the season. A lot of guys are banged up, especially some of the older guys, so he is doing a great job of keeping our bodies fresh and we have got to be able to run on Sunday.”