Ashley Fox: Giants' Shawn Andrews misses practice

Former Eagle Shawn Andrews, now with the Giants, is having more back problems.
Former Eagle Shawn Andrews, now with the Giants, is having more back problems.
Posted: November 18, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - At 6:48 a.m. Wednesday, Shawn Andrews wrote on his Twitter page, "This can't be happening."

And sure enough, later in the day, Andrews was unable to participate in the team portion of the New York Giants practice. He was out with a sore back. His status for the game against the Eagles on Sunday night was unknown.

Sound familiar?

It was not clear after practice how severe Andrews' injury is. Giants coach Tom Coughlin spoke to the media before practice, and when asked specifically about Andrews did not volunteer the information that he was hurt. The only thing the Giants said subsequently was that Andrews did not practice. He was not available for comment.

But anyone who watched Andrews with the Eagles in 2008 and 2009 knows that this could be a devastating blow to the player - and consequently to the Giants. Andrews spent two years dealing with back issues that required two surgeries, and while the Eagles were patient with and supportive of their two-time Pro Bowl left guard, they eventually gave up on Andrews this last off-season and cut him.

The Giants picked up Andrews for pennies on the dollar during training camp because of the positive reports they received about his back, his work ethic, and his commitment to football. Andrews is as talented a lineman as there is in the National Football League, and the Giants reasoned that, if his back and his mind were both right, why not give him another shot?

They invested time but little money in Andrews, who signed an incentive-based, six-year contract that, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, included a $1.25 million base salary for this season that will drop to $650,000 in the event Andrews ends up on injured reserve. If Andrews is on the roster in late March, the Giants will owe him a $3.5 million roster bonus, and if he remains for the life of the deal, he would make $32.5 million.

All of that is up in the air now.

Until Wednesday, Andrews had rewarded the Giants by becoming their starting left tackle. New York has had a slew of linemen - center Shaun O'Hara, guard David Diehl, and backup lineman Adam Koets - go down, so the line has been constantly shifting and remaking itself. With O'Hara out two weeks ago with a Lisfranc sprain in his right foot, Coughlin moved Rich Seubert from left guard to center and moved Diehl from left tackle to left guard. With that, Andrews made his first start, against his brother Stacy's team, the Seattle Seahawks.

It was an interesting move, since only a few weeks earlier when O'Hara was also out, Coughlin opted to start Koets at center and keep Seubert and Diehl at their normal positions.

Against the Seahawks, Andrews was part of a line that was not penalized for a false start, did not allow a sack, and contributed to 197 rushing yards.

"He has come along very gradually," Coughlin said on Wednesday. "We did that on purpose. He's played in multiple positions, and he was in a starting role because he has played well, and he certainly really hasn't done anything to discourage that."

Diehl hurt his hip and hamstring in that game and did not play last week against Dallas. O'Hara missed the Cowboys game and missed practice yesterday. There's a possibility both will play on Sunday, but it is unlikely.

So Andrews, who had little trouble with Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware on Sunday, was slated to start against the Eagles, the team that made him a first-round draft pick in 2004. Coughlin said he spent a few minutes Wednesday morning talking with Andrews, who went through the team's morning walk-through, about playing his old team and controlling his emotions.

"He seems to have a real good demeanor, and I'm sure the emotion will grow for him," Coughlin said.

Now, those emotions could be totally different. There is no telling how long Andrews could be out. A day? A week? A lifetime?

During a conference call with New York-area reporters on Wednesday before news broke of Andrews' latest setback, Andy Reid said he "thought it would be tough" for Andrews to return to the NFL after the Eagles released him in March.

"I had never seen an offensive lineman that was as talented as Shawn Andrews," Reid said, "and I've seen a few offensive linemen. I've played the position. I've coached it. I'm very familiar with the guys that have come through the league. He's as talented a guy as anyone, and then he had that series of injuries and he came back. But it took a long time and he worked his tail off and he came back, and I'm proud of him for that."

When word of Andrews' back issue made its way to the Eagles' NovaCare Complex, it was received with understandable skepticism.

"His back's sore?" Eagles defensive end Trent Cole said. "Tell him I'm practicing over here."

Another of Andrews' tweets from Wednesday morning said this: "SMH." That translates to "shaking my head." Andrews is a prideful guy who never appreciated people's questioning whether he was faking his injury or cared more about making music than playing football.

It seemed he was enjoying himself with the Giants. He certainly looked good in two complete games.

But now this. Unfortunately for Andrews, it is all too familiar a scenario to think it will turn out any other way than badly.


Contact staff writer Ashley Fox

at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AshleyMFox.

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