Hello crisis my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.
Joe Judge probably has no idea if Simon and/or Garfunkel are singers or safeties, and he is not calling what hit him on Wednesday a crisis. Even though, well, you know, it kinda, sorta is.
The first-year head coach learned prize rookie Xavier McKinney, already looking like the starting free safety, sustained a fractured left foot. Instead of practicing with his teammates in the bright sun at MetLife Stadium, McKinney was driven into the big city, for all the wrong reasons. He underwent surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery, although there is nothing special about what this means for the player and the team.
This sets McKinney aside. The time frame is thought to be 10-12 weeks, which could get McKinney back on the field in early November and certainly before the Nov. 22 bye week. Then again, there is no certainty as to how a foot heals.
This is a setback for an already-suspect defensive backfield on an already-suspect defensive unit. A position group operating in training camp without a presumptive starting cornerback (DeAndre Baker, on the exempt list), and the likely replacement (Sam Beal, opted out) now is robbed of the player the Giants believed was a draft-day steal. They pegged McKinney as a first-round talent and when he was on the board for them at No. 36 overall, they blessed their good fortune and scooped him up.
Now they will prop him up as he embarks on his first NFL rehabilitation program.
“I know he’s gonna rehab hard to get his body ready,’’ Judge said. “We got to keep his mind sharp and moving and keep him engaged with the team.’’
This is what a head coach must endure. This is what Judge, 38, signed up for. He steadfastly refuses to use the unprecedented COVID-19 spring and summer restrictions as an excuse. On this eventful day, he moved back practice 45 minutes — no small concession, given his detailed schedule — to engage his players in conversation about the shooting in the back, multiple times, of Jacob Blake, a black man, in Kenosha, Wis. The Lions canceled their practice Tuesday and defensive tackle Leonard Williams said that possibility was discussed. Ultimately, Williams said, it would have been unfair to tell young guys trying to make the roster to refrain from working.
“One thing we decided as a team is we’re not really a bunch of talkers, it’s not really our personality,’’ Judge said. “It’s OK to say something, but you got to back it up. Before we go out there and make a bunch of blanket statements, we want to be in a position where we’re making a difference and we’re helping people in their everyday lives.’’
There is no coaching manual with a section entitled, “How to handle social justice issues.’’ There is chapter and verse on how to deal with injuries. On the day McKinney went down, inside linebacker David Mayo — pushing for a starting job and definitely in the mix on special teams — was lost to a torn meniscus. He will have surgery Thursday.
“Any injury on our roster is a hit to us, because we care about every player on our roster,’’ Judge said.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara, as a rookie in 2011, broke a bone in his left foot in early August and managed to play in the final seven games. At this point, the Giants would sign up for that with McKinney.
The Giants with all their growing deficiencies on defense would have to wildly overachieve to win as many games as they lose. Operating with a secondary stretched this thin, anyone who foresees big things ahead needs more than their temperature checked.
Even with Baker, Beal and McKinney, the Giants were suspect on the back end. Baker had a poor rookie year, Beal was inconsistent at best once he finally got healthy and McKinney, for all his promise and Alabama pedigree, is an NFL novice. It is not as if the Giants lost three-fourths of the Legion of Doom. Now they have to hope the shock troops, Corey Ballentine, Julian Love and rookie Darnay Holmes can somehow write a Dave Gettleman draft success story.
“Xavier’s a guy for us who’s making a tremendous amount of improvement,’’ Judge said. “Look, we’re still looking forward to getting him back on the field.’’
Right now that is an “if’’ and not a “when.’’ Welcome to life behind the big desk, Joe Judge.
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