Sterling Shepard is ready to finally get back on the field and catch some passes. Without his thumb splint.
The fourth-year receiver hasn't seen any preseason action, and has been limited at practice due to his fractured right thumb. He was still seen with a yellow, non-contact jersey on at training camp, but would haul in any pass coming his way with his left hand.
That won't be the case on Sunday, though, as Shepard will be in the blue and white ready to take on the Cowboys in Week 1.
"I was pretty happy," Shepard said about practicing with his splint off on Monday. "It's hard to grip a ball with the splint, so I just practiced on that, and then getting my strength back in my thumb, so it's been feeling great."
"To be honest, this feels a lot better than the past few times that I've broken it."
So now that he's fully healthy, it's time to see if Shepard can step up as the team's No. 1 receiver. Odell Beckham Jr.'s absence should see more targets come his way from Eli Manning, and the Giants trusted he'll make the best of them after issuing a four-year, $41 million extension to him this offseason.
While that deal shows the Giants' confidence in Shepard making that leap to leading the wide receivers, he has consistently shown his faith in his teammates in that room as well.
"Yeah, and I've said it before, I have guys that I can go to," Shepard said when asked if he's ready for that No. 1 role. "We've got a lot of guys in the room who can make plays, so that makes you a little bit more comfortable, but I'm ready for the opportunity. I'm ready to help the team out."
Even with Beckham on the field last season, Shepard hauled in career-highs in receptions (66), yards (872) and targets (107) with four touchdowns as well. Manning especially loved going to him on third-down, showing his trust in No. 87.
Shepard could easily break those numbers this season in his heightened role. Golden Tate will be out the first four games, which means Manning will be leaning on him even more.
At the end of the day, though, Shepard doesn't care who gets the ball as long as he's in the win column. Evan Engram should see more targets with the Giants hoping he can take that Year 3 leap to the matchup nightmare he was drafted to be. Also, Saquon Barkley has more than shown that he can be a threat through the air as well.
Many critics have voiced their concerns with this Giants squad, especially on the offensive side of the ball after losing their top receiver. But just as head coach Pat Shurmur or Alec Ogletree said on Monday, the "outside noise" is falling on deaf ears.
"We're not big on listening to the outside noise," Shepard said. "We know what we have as a team, and we're going to put our best foot forward every week. We're going to prepare the way we're supposed to prepare, and I'm not listening to the outside noise."
Shepard will let his play on the field tell the story instead. And that play is more important than it's ever been in his career.