New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones wasn't teammates with Eli Manning very long, but one of the things Jones took away from his time with the legend is that if you can walk, you can play.
Such was the attitude Jones took last season when a high ankle sprain and a hamstring injury forced him to miss two games. And Giants head coach Joe Judge, in an interview with ESPN's The Michael Kay Show on Monday, revealed that Jones's injuries were so bad that any other person might have been shut down for the season after sustaining them.
“Daniel’s the last guy that’s gonna use anything as an excuse,” Judge said. “What I would say about the injury last year — it was much more serious than maybe people thought on the outside.
“I would say that 90% of the players in the league who would’ve had that injury, including quarterbacks, would have been on IR for the remainder of the year," Judge said. "That’s just the reality of it. It was much more severe than maybe he allowed people to know, or the information that was put out there.”
Judge didn't address why the team green-lighted Jones to return so quickly following the sprained ankle he suffered in a Week 12 win against the Bengals.
After sitting out the following weekend against the Seahawks, Jones returned to play against the Cardinals, but it was clear that the quarterback couldn't defend himself by moving around in the pocket. Jones became a sitting duck for a Cardinals pass rush that sacked him eight times, five of which were recorded by outside linebacker Haason Reddick.
Jones went on to miss the following week's game against the Browns, but he returned to finish out the season. And when he did, he still didn't look right, though as time wore on, he showed a little more mobility each week.
Jones's toughness and commitment cast him in a whole new and favorable light within the organization, which has publicly backed him despite some calls for the Giants to contemplate going in another direction at quarterback.
While Judge doesn't like to make excuses for anything not going according to plan, he did point out that Jones had some extra challenges to overcome last season. Chief among them was that Jones was in his second pro offensive system (and one very different from the one he ran as a rookie) in as many years--and one he ran without the benefit of OTAs or preseason games.
“Let’s be honest about this guy — there’s no excuses, but he didn’t have a spring to work in the new system, he didn’t have any preseason games to get a feel for and build chemistry with his teammates," Judge said. "We did the best we could in training camp, and ultimately, it took a little more time to acclimate an entire team to a new offense."
Despite the obstacles, Jones showed enough to earn the respect and confidence of his head coach, who, whenever he was asked about the quarterback, didn't mince words in endorsing Jones as the team's signal-caller for 2021.
“He earned a lot of people’s respect,” Judge said.
With the organization having added more playmakers to help Jones take the leap they're expecting in Year 3, it's up to Jones to continue justifying the love he has received from the organization.