NEW YORK — Starting left guard Will Hernandez will miss Monday night’s Giants-Buccaneers game due to his confirmed positive COVID-19 test on Wednesday.
But the good news is Hernandez is feeling well. Plus, the Giants got all nine of their quarantined close contact players and coaches back for Friday’s practice after they all tested negative.
“He’s doing good,” center Nick Gates said of Hernandez. “He’s bummed he can’t play, and it sucks. I’m not gonna speak for him or anything, but I think he’s doing good.”
Friday’s practice at MetLife Stadium was a welcome sight, though, as Gates and the entire starting offensive line minus Hernandez were back practicing and preparing to play Monday.
All of their Thursday tests and rapid tests Friday morning came back negative.
“I just trust the trainers and the experts,” Gates said of resuming his normal routine. “If they say I’m good to go, I trust them.”
Rookie Shane Lemieux, a fifth-round pick out of Oregon, is the most likely candidate to replace Hernandez on Monday.
“I’m excited to see what he can do when he gets in there, and I’m excited to play next to him,” Gates said.
Thursday’s practice was “strange,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said.
Tight end Eric Tomlinson had to play right tackle because the Giants had only four offensive linemen available to practice due to the contact tracing protocols: starting right guard Kevin Zeitler, backup tackles Matt Peart and Jackson Barton, and practice squad tackle Kyle Murphy.
“It was a really interesting challenge,” offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said Friday. “I don’t know if we’ve ever been out on a practice field where you try to function with four offensive linemen, a couple young guys playing, guys playing out of position, and then Eric Tomlinson playing right tackle for you. But I thought those guys handled it really, really well.”
Head coach Joe Judge said he even had some defensive linemen play O-line on the scout team offense in order to prepare his defense — and to continue preparing for a worst-case scenario.
“That ties into everything we’re preparing for,” said Judge, who has been creating contingency plans since the spring. “At some point in time, you may have to have a defensive lineman or a tight end playing on the offensive line, and we have to have a plan for it. We worked a combination of staying as close to our game plan as possible, as well as mixing in a couple curveballs in case we have to make some kind of adjustments.”
Of Tomlinson’s performance as a tackle, Judge cracked: “I think he was born to block, so pretty good. He’s probably happy he can get a few more cheeseburgers on the diet.”
Gates provided a detailed and informative play-by-play of how the Giants responded quickly to Hernandez’s positive test once it was confirmed late Wednesday night.
“They called me like 6:15 (a.m.) and just told me what was going on and kinda asked me a couple questions about when you think you could have been in contact with Will, things like that,” Gates said. “Because they have those contact tracers that we wear. They can see who’s by who, (but) they don’t know what we were doing. They can just tell who’s by who. And (they were) just trying to see what everyone was doing around each other.”
Gates explained that he and others were around Hernandez on Tuesday, which is why they were determined to be close contacts and required to isolate.
“Tuesday was the day,” Gates said. “We came in Monday, watched film, and then Tuesday we had practice. And then I think we were eating lunch or something. I can’t remember. It was a couple days ago.”
So on Thursday morning, the Giants required all close contact individuals to drive up, get tested, and then return home to isolate and attend meetings virtually.
That group included Gates, left tackle Andrew Thomas, right tackle Cam Fleming, Lemieux, backup center Spencer Pulley, practice squad players Chad Slade (guard) and Binjimen Victor (receiver), outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson.
“They zoomed us into (morning) meetings,” Gates said. “Then I came in around 9:30, 10 a.m., I drove up, they walked up — I couldn’t go into the facility or testing center. So I drove up, they came out and swabbed my nose, and I drove home.”
Then Friday morning, all of those individuals took two tests before re-entering: the normal test and a rapid response, point-of-contact test.
“I think the rapid test takes 16 minutes to come back,” Gates said. “So I was on my way back home to do more Zoom meetings this morning, and they told me I was negative so I could come in.”
Outside of practice, Friday’s work and meetings remained virtual. And the Giants (1-6) have one more scheduled practice Saturday morning before Monday’s game against the Bucs (5-2).
Hernandez is likely to miss the Giants’ Week 9 game vs. Washington as the NFL’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said Friday that 10 days have to pass for a player who tests positive and is asymptomatic to return. The earliest he could be cleared would be a week from Saturday.
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