Second year left tackle Andrew Thomas was one of the few bright spots in what was another disappointing season for the New York Giants in 2021.
After going through some growing pains during his rookie campaign in 2020, Thomas’ play took a significant jump last year. In 13 games, Thomas allowed just two sacks (57th among offensive tackles in NFL), committed only five penalties (33rd in NFL) and produced a Pro Football Focus grade of 78.9.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Thomas, who missed a total of four games as a result of foot and ankle injuries. After a brief stint on injured reserve due to a right foot sprain, Thomas was able to return in late-November to appear in the Giants’ final eight contests. However, one of his ailments would still require additional attention following the season.
According to Dan Duggan of The Athletic, Thomas underwent surgery on his left ankle in late-January.
As Duggan went onto point out, Thomas has undergone surgery on the same ankle in back-to-back offseasons. Although Duggan revealed that Thomas should be back to full strength by the beginning of the Giants’ offseason program later in the spring, the team will likely be cautious with the No. 4 overall pick from the 2020 NFL Draft.
And as Ryan Dunleavy of The New York Post added, the Giants were careful with Thomas’ left ankle down the stretch of the season since it has bothered him in his first two years in the league.
The Giants are in need of four new starting offensive linemen before they show up to training camp in the end of July. And the hope is that Thomas, the only sure thing on this unit, can stay on the field more often in year-three as the blindside protector of quarterback Daniel Jones.
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Nick Gates Update
Speaking of Giants offensive linemen, the next best player behind Thomas in this group was center/guard Nick Gates, who suffered a season-ending leg fracture in Week 2 of the 2021 regular season against the Washington Commanders.
This brutal injury forced Gates to endure six different surgeries, which has now put his playing career in jeopardy.
Although Gates isn’t sure of when he might be able to get back on the field, there is some optimism that his career isn’t over.
“I’m doing good,” Gates told reporters back in January. “I’m making good steps and good strides in my rehab. I can’t really tell you a specific timeline on when I’m going to be back or not. I’m just taking it day by day, just trying to get better each day and just listening to what the trainers are saying.
“My plan is to get back on the field as fast as possible. I don’t know if it’s going to be this year or whatever, but just taking it day by day.”
The Giants are expected to heavily prioritize the offensive line this offseason, which has been an issue since 2013. Unfortunately, they cannot count on Gates, at least next season, but if they are able to eventually fix the line, the possible return of the University of Nebraska product would be an added bonus down the road.
Blast From the Past?
On February 15, a promising image emerged on social media of Gates rehabbing with trainers in the Giants facility.
And while it is certainly a positive development that Gates is back in the weight room, he is sporting a nasty scar on his left leg as a result of the multiple procedures he underwent.
Fortunately, Gates isn’t alone. One former Giant picked up a similar scar from an ugly injury of his own in the past and was able to return to the field following an extensive rehab. Ex-Giants right guard Rich Seubert fractured his tibia, fibula and ankle in a game against the Eagles in October of 2003.
After undergoing a total of five surgeries, Seubert missed two years as a result. Remarkably, Seubert returned to game action for the Giants during the 2005 season and wound up earning back his starting job two seasons later, where he helped his team capture Super Bowl XLII.
Following his gruesome injury, Seubert was able to come back to play five more seasons with the Giants, where he made an impact on the offensive line.
In response to ex-Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes’ tweet from yesterday, who compared his ex-teammate’s scar to Gates’, Seubert chimed in with some simple words of encouragement for the fifth-year offensive lineman.
“Looks very similar, hard work will get him back on that field,” Seubert wrote, referring to Gates’ scar and injury. “Best athletic trainers are in (the Giants) building.”
In the end, Seubert is living proof that Gates’ eventual return is a realistic possibility. But, he still must realize that there is a long and frustrating road ahead if he hopes to one day get back out on the field.