The Giants were without most of their offensive line at practice on Thursday after left guard Will Hernandez tested positive for COVID-19.
In total, eight players and two Giants coaches — determined to be in close contact with Hernandez — were sent home to isolate on Thursday and participate in virtual meetings.
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Those players not seen at practice on Thursday include center Nick Gates, tackle Andrew Thomas, tackle Cam Fleming, center Spencer Pulley and guard Shane Lemieux. From the practice squad, guard Chad Slade and wide receiver Binjimen Victor were also absent. The coaches sent home were outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson.
Only four offensive linemen were able to participate in practice — starting guard Kevin Zeitler, reserve tackles Matt Peart and Jackson Barton, as well as practice squad offensive lineman Kyle Murphy. The Giants also worked tight end Eric Tomlinson as an offensive lineman at Thursday’s practice, per The Athletic’s Dan Duggan.
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Gates, Thomas and Fleming are all starters, and Lemieux is expected to fill in for Hernandez in the likelihood that he’s unable to play on Monday night. The Giants determined that none of those found to be in close contact with Hernandez were “high risk” and coach Joe Judge said he’s “optimistic” they’ll be able to get all of those players back in the building, possibly as soon as Friday.
The Giants play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night and would have a tough time competing against one of the NFL’s best pass rushes with only four true offensive linemen. Due to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, it takes at least five days to add new players in free agency or via trade, which wouldn’t have any additions ready in time for Monday’s game.
Of note, Victor — an undrafted rookie — was one of at least five Giants players out in New York City, a person familiar told NJ Advance Media, last Friday when Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley were videoed out not wearing masks. Sterling Shepard and fellow undrafted rookie Austin Mack were also present. It’s unclear if the Giants or the NFL will be punishing the players for possible violations of the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
Judge said on Tuesday that the issue would be handled internally.
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Zack Rosenblatt may be reached at [email protected]. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.