Inside Will Hernandez's Return From COVID-19
In the age of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing Giants guard Will Hernandez wanted to hear was that one of his mandatory daily tests came back positive.
Yet that's what happened in the week leading up to the Giants' Monday night game against the Bucs. Hernandez's positive test brought to a screeching halt a string of 2,523 consecutive snaps played by the starting left guard, leaving him to not only wonder how the unpredictable virus might affect him but also how to fill his days in quarantine.
"Being reliable is something I've always wanted to do," Hernandez said of not being available to his teammates during his illness.
"Just having the coaches and team know that they can rely on me for whatever it is is something I've always taken a lot of pride. But things happen, life happens.I was definitely upset, it means a lot to me, but I'm good."
Hernandez said he went through "the standard sickness" that comes with the virus, declining to provide any detail. He remained as involved as he could with the Giants through Zoom calls, but other than that, he watched a lot of television and took a drive to get out of the house once he was starting to feel better.
Hernandez, a second-round pick out of UTEP in 2018, started 39 consecutive games for the Giants over the past two years at left guard, and before that, he started all 49 games at UTEP from 2014-17.
He was cleared to return to action last weekend against the Eagles, but in the days leading up to the game, Giants head coach Joe Judge warned that Hernandez wouldn't merely be thrown back into a full workload.
"The training staff was being very careful with me, especially in dealing with a virus that we know little about," Hernandez said.
"They told me from the beginning that they were going to ease me into this. They didn't know exactly how much it would be and what I was going to play.
"But at the end of the day, this is about the team, not about Will Hernandez. If I wasn’t 100 percent ready to go coming back from this, then what’s best for the team here? We just need to remember that."
Hernandez remained a sideline spectator until the fourth quarter when guard Kevin Zeitler suffered a concussion.
"It's horrible seeing one of your boys come out of the game like that, but when my number was called, I was ready to go, and I was excited about getting back in there with the guys," Hernandez said."
So when he heard someone on the Giants sideline yelling, 'We need a guard! We need a guard!' Hernandez knew his time had arrived.
"I was always ready to go," he said. "I wanted to play, obviously. You guys know me by now. But at the end of the day, I’m just going to follow what the coaches are telling me and what the medical staff says."
Hernandez filled in for the team's final 12 offensive snaps and helped anchor the Giants' last field-goal drive late in the fourth quarter, which effectively sealed the 27-17 win for the Giants, putting them right back in the hunt for first place in the NFC East.
As the Giants look to make a case for a division title, Hernandez, who will continue working on getting his game conditioning back, is ready to do his part to help push his team across the finish line. The Giants announced they have placed punter Riley Dixon and long snapper Casey Kreiter on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The moves come a day after the team confirmed they had a player test positive for the virus, that player turning out to be kicker Graham Gano.
The fallout doesn't come as unexpected, given how much time the three specialists spend together.
However, it doesn't mean that Dixon and Kreiter have tested positive for the virus, as players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list can also be for those exposed to anyone who tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this week, the Giants signed kicker/punter Ryan Santoso from their practice squad to serve in the event Gano isn't ready by the time the Giants next take the field on November 29 against the Bengals.
The Giants haven't' listed a backup center to Kreiter on any of their unofficial depth charts, but it's unlikely they'd want Nick Gates, who's still learning the center position, to handle those duties. A more likely option would be Spencer Pulley if need be.