There's no doubt that it has been a tumultuous season for New York Giants offensive tackle Evan Neal as he's been dealing with an injury and lack of performance. With the talk of possibly switching to guard instead of tackle, Giants general manger Joe Schoen didn't like the idea and Neal agrees according to Gene Clemons of Sports Illustrated.
“To be honest, in my opinion, as soon as I stepped out of the womb, I stepped out an offensive tackle, and that's how I feel,” Neal said. “You asked Joe, and he gave you his analysis on where he felt like he saw me, so there you have it.”
Dealing with an ankle injury, he's missed the last three games and in total, the last five of six contests. He's currently still not practicing which is concerning, but Neal is eager to get back out on the field and harps on “controlling everything that I can control.”
“I have, and that's not something that I can control necessarily, so I don't want to harp on it too much, but in life, unexpected things happen,” Neal said. “I'm just rolling with the punches, controlling everything that I can control, so when the opportunity does present itself for me to go back out on the field, I'll be ready.”
Neal talks about his process through the injury with Giants
He came back from injury earlier in the season on Nov. 5 against the Las Vegas Raiders where in the same game, he re-injured the ankle. While one might assume that means the team and Neal rushed his return, he feels the exact opposite.
“I felt good when I returned for Las Vegas,” Neal said to Sports Illustrated. “I was dealing with my right ankle, I didn't have any issue with it. It was just that one play where I got long-armed and fell- it was kind of like a freak thing. Like I fell on it, and it dorsiflexed, so I kind of feel like I had nothing to do with my right ankle; it was just unfortunate that it had to happen.”
Neal was a huge prospect literally and figuratively coming out of the University of Alabama where he was dominant in college football. He was drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 2022 draft as he's in his second season.
Because of the force the ankles take while being an offensive lineman, it's not an injury to take lightly. Neal said to Sports Illustrated that he's doing light drills in his rehab process and other reps to gradually prepare him for heavier football activities.
“I've been doing some stuff on the field, just basically some light ladder drills, getting my feet up under me trying to put more weight on it, put more stress or load,” Neal said. “I'll do some light sled pushes, or I'll do some slow-motion pass sets just to get my body or my ankle back used to take on a full load, so that's pretty much where I'm at now. I do a lot of strengthening in my rehab, a lot of balance, and a lot of treatment stuff as well.”
Neal feels he's “dominant”
Even with the struggles Neal has had on the field, he's still confident in himself that there are a lot of “dominating” aspects about his game that people don't focus on. While focusing on what other people think isn't something to worry about for Neal, he's more focused on continuing to get better as the vitriol comes naturally with someone in his position.
“”I've put a lot of dominant reps on tape–a lot of times they go unnoticed, a lot of times the reps that I struggle get highlighted, but if you really sit back and watch the tape, I do a lot of good things,” Neal said.” I do a lot of dominant things on the football field that a lot of times go unnoticed, but that's the nature of being an offensive lineman; you're not noticed until you mess up pretty much, you know what I'm saying? So, it is what it is. I have to continue to get better. I know I have a lot of work to do, and I embrace it with a smile, so that's where I'm at.”
Neal open about the pain he's in
Neal was open about the ankle injury that puts his 2023 season in question saying that “it hurts.” However, he says that's the nature of football and he'll be good to go once he's back playing with his teammates on the Giants.
“To be honest with you, it hurts,” Neal said. “You know what I'm saying? It's football; sometimes, you've got to play through pain. But I do want to make sure whenever I do go back out on the field, I'll be ready. I'll have bullets in my gun to shoot with because anybody would never want to go into a war without any bullets in their gun, and that's where I'm at.”
With how disappointing the Giants have been as they have a 4-8 record this season, they are sure to not rush the recovery process. On the other hand, New York is on a two-game winning streak as their next game will be against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.