Although Sterling Shepard hasn't played yet this preseason because of a fractured thumb, the New York Giants receiver is expected to be ready for Week 1.
"It's actually healed up pretty fast and ... I'm feeling good," Shepard said, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post. "I wouldn't say I'm all the way back, but I'm pretty close. I'm where I need to be. I feel good about that."
The 26-year-old initially suffered the thumb injury on the first day of training camp, putting the start of the season in jeopardy. He has been practicing with the team, but he has been wearing a splint and a non-contact jersey.
Per Braziller, he was finally able to shed the non-contact jersey for Sunday's practice, indicating he is close to a return to live action. However, he is still not likely to play in the team's Week 3 preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The good news is the team expects him back for the Sept. 8 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, when the games actually count.
The fourth-year player is expected to take on a major role in the Giants offense this season with Odell Beckham Jr. now with the Cleveland Browns. Shepard finished last season second on the team with 872 receiving yards on 66 catches, one year after leading the squad with 731 receiving yards.
While New York added Golden Tate to take some pressure off, the veteran will miss the first four games after violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
If Shepard also missed the start of the year, the Giants would have to look further down the depth chart to Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer as the team's No. 1 option. For a team that is coming off a 5-11 campaign in 2018, this isn't an ideal situation to start the season.