In the New York Giants’ locker room on Wednesday, players were of course being asked for their reactions to the decision to start Geno Smith at quarterback on Sunday instead of Eli Manning. Offensive lineman Justin Pugh perhaps spoke most eloquently of all.
“I think his career is far from over. If he wants to play football I think he’ll still be playing,” Pugh said. “You can’t even close the door on him playing for us again. This is one week, this is one game. You can’t close the door on Eli Manning still being the quarterback going forward after that.”
Pugh said he was “shocked” on Tuesday when Manning let him know that he wouldn’t be playing.
“I was sitting here getting ready to go to walk-through yesterday and he was asking me how I was doing. After finding out, he was still asking me how I was doing and what was going on with me. I was like I’m not sure if I’m playing or not and he told me he wasn’t going to and I was definitely shocked,” Pugh said. “I mean barring injury, I didn’t see any way that Eli Manning wouldn’t be our quarterback.
“But at the same time, we’re a team and Eli’s gotten right behind Geno (Smith) and had his support, had his back and I think that just goes to show what kind of man Eli is. He was out there taking scout team quarterback reps and not saying a word about it. Like I said, he wants to play quarterback in this game. Eli Manning is still going to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.”
There was a story that Manning, even after the decision, was sitting in the team’s cafeteria alone with Davis Webb, helping the young quarterback study.
“Eli Manning, the character of that man. I mean, if we could all have a little bit of that in our lives, I think we would all take it. Any team would want to have Eli Manning as their quarterback and just have him be around,” Pugh said. “Like I said before, I don’t think this closes the door on his career. It’s a chapter, it’s a part of the story and overcoming adversity is a great thing. You find out what you’re made of and you dig down deep and you fight back. I think nobody has been through more adversity in New York than Eli Manning.”
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said “It was a decision that was made. A lot of people would disagree with it and you see what I see. So there really isn’t too much to talk about.”
Does JPP feel like the quarterback is being made the scapegoat?
“I think there are a lot of issues. Right now, we got to focus on football. The goal is to win, win football games and we haven’t been doing that lately and we got to approach the game that way. The decision has been made and there is nothing we can do about it,” he said.