Four of the Giants' five offensive line starters and two backups did not participate in Thursday's practice due to the COVID-19 virus showing up in the team's locker room.
Offensive guard Will Hernandez has been placed on the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list and is all but guaranteed not to play on Monday. According to a source, Hernandez was asymptomatic as of Thursday but was to undergo an examination in the coming days.
Unfortunately, offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Cameron Fleming, centers Nick Gates and Spencer Pulley, and backup guard Shane Lemieux were also absent from practice as they were found to have come in contact with Hernandez before his positive test. The offensive linemen were sent home to self-quarantine but are not believed to be high-risk candidates and could be back as soon as Friday.
Head coach Joe Judge told reporters Thursday that he was confident in rookie Lemieux if he had to start for Hernandez Monday night against the Bucs.
"Shane is definitely an aggressive player. He’s definitely got that bruiser mentality to it. He’s settling in a lot technically. He’s shown a lot of improvement throughout the year. We liked him from the jump," Judge said.
"He’s a guy that wants to get after it, wants to play physical, wants to play aggressive. He’s made good adjustments to a lot of the movement schemes and also the speed of the game of how it comes to it.
"His communication inside has really improved throughout the year. With the centers and guards inside, that’s definitely a critical piece for everything they are going to do because of the multiples they’ll see inside."
The Giants could also move Gates to left guard and insert Pulley assuming both are cleared to return, as they might want to have experience against a Buccaneers defensive front seven that is currently second in the NFL in sacks with 25 on the season.
In addition to the COVID-related listings on the injury report, five other players were on Thursday's report due to other ailments.
Running back Devonta Freeman (ankle), who left last week's game with an ankle injury, did not participate on Thursday. If Freeman can't play, the assumption is fourth-year man Wayne Gallman, who impressed in relief of Freeman last week, will get the start Monday night.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (toe/shoulder) made his return to the field last Thursday from a turf toe injury but was right back on the injury report. Shepard was limited Thursday.
Shepard proved to be a difference-maker for the Giants, hauling in six catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Losing him again would be a huge blow for Monday's game. Still, his limited participation is a good sign that he may be able to go if there are no further setbacks.
Cornerback Darnay Holmes (neck) was also a limited participant. Holmes missed last week's game with his injury. He has made steady progress for the Giants in his role in the slot.
Safety Adrian Colbert (neck) was also listed as a limited participant. Colbert had seen many snaps at free safety before his injury, snaps that have been absorbed by Logan Ryan. Colbert is also a main contributor on special teams.
For Tampa Bay, wide receiver Chris Godwin (finger) did not participate and is projected to miss Monday night's game. His absence would be a big break for the Giants' secondary as Godwin has been a viable deep threat for the Buccaneers over the last three seasons.
Godwin's potential top replacement Scotty Miller (hip/groin), was listed as a limited participant. If he can't go, presumably rookie Tyler Johnson would get the nod opposite Mike Evans.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski (shoulder) was a limited participant. While Gronkowski is projected to play, his extensive injury history could mean limitations on Monday and an increased role for backup tight end Cameron Brate.
Former Giants edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) was listed as limited. Pierre-Paul leads the Buccaneers in sacks so far this season with 5.5, which also ranks fifth in the NFL.
Rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (shoulder/groin) was also limited. Winfield has been a solid rookie starter for Tampa Bay this season and a modest difference-maker at the strong safety spot.
The Buccaneers have a serviceable backup with second-year man Mike Edwards but will likely lean on Winfield to be ready in time for Monday.