This week, “You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Program!” will be more than just a sales pitch on the concourses of MetLife Stadium.
Going into their 2017 season finale, the Giants, decimated by injuries, inconsistency, and general silliness, will be dressing several replacement guys to fill out their roster for a meaningless finale against the Washington Redskins (1:00 PM, FOX).
That game, however, will mean everything to the subs on the roster, as they’ve earned a rare opportunity to play in an NFL game. Week 17 is often best known for playoff battles, but these players embark on a new battle: a battle to make an NFL roster, be it with the Giants or elsewhere.
“It’s a great opportunity for these young guy,” interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said of the newcomers Wednesday. “I thought a couple of those guys had a real good practice today. I hope that carries over.”
Let’s meet a few of the newcomers.
LB Derrick Mathews
The most recent call up to the active roster, Mathews was brought in from the practice squad after Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins was finally forced to sit down after suffering a broken forearm.
“I was just so grateful and blessed to find out I was getting my first NFL action,” Mathews said of the fateful call. “I’m really thankful that the Giants trusted me and gave me the opportunity. I didn’t want it to happen under the circumstances, obviously, but at the same time, they trusted me to promote me, give me a chance to play on Sunday. I’m truly grateful for that.”
An alum of Houston, where he tallied over 400 tackles, Mathews has been in the league since 2015, first joining up with the Redskins. He spent all of 2016 with Green Bay’s practice squad before the Giants brought him to their own earlier this month.
WR Marquis Bundy
This Bundy isn’t a running back from Polk High, but rather a receiver from Arizona. Born in Phoenix and formerly in the Cardinals’ system, Bundy has been on the Giants’ practice squad since September, and was called up to the starting lineup when BJ Goodson was sent to injured reserve.
Bundy found out about his promotion alongside on of his teammates, receiver and kick returner Kalif Raymond, who said the two paused their game of NBA 2K18 to celebrate.
“Me and Kalif, we were hyped!” Bundy said with a smile. “First we did the jump up, shoulder bump, then got right back on the video game. I had to, unfortunately, crush him.”
WR/KR Hunter Sharp
When the Denver Broncos poached tight end Matt LaCosse from the Giants’ practice squad on December 12, the Giants returned the favor in the form of Sharp. The Utah alum, who also spent time on Philadelphia’s practice squad, has contributed immediately, taking over the team’s return duties in their recent visit to Arizona. He wound up tallying 38 yards on four returns (three punts, one kick), including a 13-yard punt return in the second quarter.
“The coaches told me they had confidence in me and gave me opportunities in practice,” Sharp recalled. “So I just went into it with open arms. It’s my opportunity to make a name for myself on this team and make plays.”
Sharp added two catches for 25 yards in the Giants’ 23-0 defeat.
“It’s hard getting back into the game when you’ve been out of it for awhile, but I wasn’t put into a bad situation,” he added. “The coaches warned me, we’re not going to put you in a bad situation, we’re going to put you in a good situation, make sure you know what’s going on. I feel like I did pretty good.”
S Ryan Murphy
The longest tenured Giant of this group, Murphy joined the practice squad a year ago, earning a promotion to the active roster when Justin Pugh to injured reserve.
“Our safety room is pretty tight,” Murphy said of his teammates. “Guys hang out in the facility, outside of the facility, so it’s just been an easy transition moving from practice squad to active roster.”
Murphy has been active for each of the Giants’ past two games. Despite his limited playing, he actually has a Super Bowl ring, earning it while serving on the Denver Broncos’ practice squad when they won Super Bowl 50.
“Personally, I’m looking to just have fun with the game,” Murphy said of Sunday’s contest. “Just to have fun. I feel like that’s what football’s been all my life, just, you know, having fun while playing, while also competing.”