After nine solid seasons in the NFL, Jabaal Sheard found himself home at the start of the 2020 NFL season waiting and hoping for another opportunity.
“I was in south Florida just being a dad. Living the norm life, I guess. Which hasn’t been so normal for me. I’ve been in football in August/September since I can remember,” Sheard said via Zoom on Friday. “It was different being in South Florida, I was back home and, on the couch, watching football. In my head, knowing I kind of missed it, I missed football. I knew I would have the opportunity to help a team. I’m just happy I’m here and able to help guys out.”
After playing for three teams and compiling 51.5 sacks over nine seasons, Sheard’s road back to the NFL wasn’t a glorious one. He had to go through a standard free-agent tryout and, at the age of 31, had to settle for a spot on the practice squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars, with whom he signed on Oct. 12.
“It was humbling, I’ll be honest. It was very humbling,” Sheard said. “You go through the workout, and I have never done a workout either in free agency. It was very humbling. Practice squad, I just knew I had to get on the field and prove myself. That was my mindset.”
Sheard was actually elevated from the practice squad six days later by the Jaguars, playing 15 snaps.
When he reverted to the Jacksonville practice squad the Giants, who were placing Lorenzo Carter and Tae Crowder on injured reserve, signed Sheard to their 53-man roster.
Sheard said he is “feeling at home” with the Giants, his fifth NFL team, and “enjoying the football environment again.”
“I love the energy here. Everyone is hungry here. Guys want to play football,” Sheard said. “Looking for answers, asking questions. It’s been fun.”
It was undoubtedly fun for Sheard on Sunday, when he sacked Cincinnati quarterback Brandon Allen in the closing minute, forcing a fumble Leonard Williams recovered to seal the Giants’ third straight victory.
Sheard said it wasn’t the first of his 52.5 career sacks that was a game-ender.
“Those are very rare. Special moments when your number is called, and you actually get the opportunity to make the play,” Sheard said. “It was a great feeling. It’s one that always brings you back. I think there is no better feeling as a defensive guy.”
The Giants lost edge defender Kyler Fackrell to a calf injury against the Bengals. Carter and Oshane Ximines are already on season-ending IR and Markus Golden was traded to the Arizona Cardinals.
The outside linebacker room for the Giants is now Sheard and a bunch of young, unproven players.
When that was pointed out to him, Sheard said “Don’t make me feel so old. It’s a great group of guys. I don’t feel old at all. I just feel like I’m spreading knowledge.”
Sheard is also trying to live up the No. 91 jersey he was assigned with the Giants. That, of course, is the number that once belong to great defensive end Justin Tuck.
“When I got here, that was the biggest pressure. You’re giving me this number, it’s one of the greats that was here with the Giants,” Sheard said. “I had the same pressure in Indy with 93 (Dwight Freeney). That was another monster. I haven’t, but I’m honored to wear the number. I’m just going to make the best out of it. Rock out as a G-man.”