Giants confident in depth at running back
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Despite the sudden retirement of running back David Wilson, the New York Giants are confident that they have enough depth at the position.
The 23-year-old Wilson announced his retirement on Monday because of neck and back injuries.
“I feel for him,” said quarterback Eli Manning, whose brother Cooper had his football career end because of a similar injury at the University of Mississippi. And his other older brother, Peyton, overcame spinal fusion surgery two years ago.
“It’s a tough situation, but it could have been a lot worse. It’s a little bit scary, but he made the right decision by walking away. We’re all going to miss him, because he was going to be a big part of our offense.”
And one Giants player, in particular, could relate to Wilson’s situation.
Linebacker Jameel McClain, signed as a free agent from Baltimore in the offseason, suffered a similar injury to the one that ended Wilson’s career when McClain was with the Ravens in 2012.
McClain suffered a bruised spinal cord and aggravated a long-standing case of spinal stenosis.
At the time, McClain was told by Ravens’ doctors that he would never play football ever again.
After the injury, McClain was released by the Ravens and signed by the Giants.
He is listed on the depth chart as their starting middle linebacker, with projected starter Jon Beason still recovering from a broken foot suffered in minicamp in June.
“I can understand to a certain extent,” McClain said. “I can relate because of the circumstances and having the same options. I really didn’t know much about my injury. The situation is a little different, but I had the same numbness and tingling my neck, hands and feet. After I first came here and we met each other, I talked to David and told him about my situation.”
McClain said that he was born with a slight case of spinal stenosis.
“What happened to David felt so real to me,” said McClain, who started 10 games for the Ravens last season before getting hurt, and had 52 tackles and a forced fumble.
“I was told that I would never play again,” he said. “David is a young man with a lot of talent. It’s a wild situation how this happened.”
McClain did not have surgery to correct his problem.
“I spent three months, had a test, waited another three months, had another test,” McClain said. “I don’t know if it was toughness or ignorance, but I didn’t know much about it to be scared. I had to confront my situation and have been moving in the right direction.”
McClain has not had to endure another burner or stinger as Wilson had last Tuesday.
“Sometimes, you have to put your future in the hands of nature and God,” McClain said. “Playing again was something I just needed to do in time. I was focused on coming right back. I haven’t had another stinger in a long while and I don’t plan on having another.”
Still, McClain feels bad for Wilson.
“My thoughts and prayers are with him 100 percent,” McClain said.
Several of Wilson’s teammates expressed confidence that the team has depth at the position.
“He always came out with a smile on his face,” running back Peyton Hillis said. “The whole week, we’ve been like that. We still think we have a strong running back group. We have a group of guys who can produce. We have power backs who can get yardage when we need it. But make no bones about it. David Wilson will be missed.”
Coach Tom Coughlin started the team’s early morning meeting on Tuesday by talking about Wilson.
“He said, ‘Once a Giant, always a Giant,’” Coughlin said. “He didn’t want pity and I think that was a key. I related my feelings about David and his attitude. He actually helped me to understand it all better.”
Coughlin said that he had his concerns about Wilson, especially having the spinal fusion surgery last January.
“There was always the possibility that he couldn’t return,” Coughlin said. “We were very concerned and very aware.”
But the Giants moved on without the former first-round pick.
“Our running backs all did a good job,” Coughlin said about the team’s rushing attack in a 17-13 win against Buffalo in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday night.
Rookie Andre Williams was the most impressive of the Giants’ rushers. The fourth-round pick from Boston College gained 48 yards on seven carries and had a touchdown against Buffalo.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Coughlin said of Williams’ performance. “It’s what we expected. That’s why we drafted him.”
NOTES: The Giants held their first night practice of training camp, practicing from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Some of those on the injured list who missed the preseason game, such as OT Will Beatty and DE Robert Ayers, returned to practice Tuesday. ... The Giants face the Pittsburgh Steelers in their second preseason game at home Saturday night. ... The Giants signed defensive end Israel Idonije, who played nine years for the Chicago Bears and last season for the Detroit Lions, and tight end Jerome Cunningham, who will be in his first professional camp. ... RB Peyton Hillis left practice with a sprained ankle.
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