EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For three long weeks, Donte Deayon watched New York Giants practices and games from the sidelines, unable to participate due to a hamstring injury suffered early in training camp.
The 5-foot-9, 163-pound third-year player had done well enough in spring and early training camp practices to put himself into consideration for the very available spot as the Giants starting slot corner.
Then he had to watch as his teammates tried to take the opportunity away. B.W. Webb, Leonard Johnson, William Gay, Grant Haley and others all worked in the slot during Deayon’s absence.
“Initially I was disappointed a little bit, like, man, why now,” Deayon said inside the Giants practice bubble on Tuesday afternoon. “I just knew I was going to be back. I thought it was going to be sooner than later, but it’s here now and now I’m ready to make the most of it.”
When he was initially injured, coach Pat Shurmur indicated Deayon was “fine” and would only miss a short period of time. That, obviously, did not turn out to be the case.
“I was trusting the process, all the rehab. I knew the training staff was going to do a good job of cutting me loose when I was ready,” Deayon said.
Deayon is back on the field, having returned to practice on Sunday. On Tuesday, it was apparent that the opportunity is still there for Deayon to earn the job as the team’s slot corner. During 7-on-7 red zone drills Deayon took reps with the first-team defense. During a situational drill at the end of practice, he intercepted a Davis Webb throw.
The competition for cornerback spots still appears to be wide open.
“I definitely think it’s still a competition at the end of the day and I’m putting my best foot forward,” Deayon said. “I think this is a big opportunity. Just gotta take it one day at a time and step up and be accountable and seize the moment.”
With two preseason games remaining and less than two weeks until the Giants have to cut players to reach the 53-man roster limit, it would be logical to think Deayon feels pressure to make up for lost time. He insisted on Tuesday, though, that that is not the case.
“No pressure. You know me, I’m excited, I love to do this. I’m just taking it one day at a time, one step at a time. Not looking forward right now, just trying to focus on each day,” he said.
“I just want to build that trust, gain their trust and build that foundation by stacking good days. When you get hurt and you’re not on the field you can talk about it, but you can’t really show them. My main goal is to just each day just keep proving to them that I can do it.”
Deayon has been trying to prove himself for three years now. An undrafted free agent out of Boise State, he landed on the practice squad in 2016, but finished the year on IR. He played in four regular-season games last season, but again ended the year on IR.
“You get in those positions where it’s next man up and you want to be available to where you’re the next man up,” Deayon said. “I’ve been in that situation where when it was next man up I was also injured. One of the goals for me is to prove that I can play, I can stay on the field, I can be healthy and make plays.”
Despite the three weeks on the sideline, the opportunity is still there for Deayon. We begin to find out if he can seize it on Friday vs. the New York Jets.