While most everyone who watched the Giants return to the playing field on Saturdays night were experiencing positive emotions, rookie offensive lineman Justin Pugh was miserable.
That’s because the Giants’ first round draft pick was forced to delay his NFL début as he recovered from a concussion suffered in practice when he suffered a head on collision with another teammate.
“Definitely those first couple of days when I couldn’t even be at the facility. I had to be back at the hotel,” he said when asked if he felt frustration and anger. “You’re kind like, ‘I feel like I’m letting everyone down by being out.’ But it’s the right thing. I know the way NFL is handling concussions now you have to make sure you’re held accountable and you tell somebody because it is a dangerous injury.”
The blow to the head, which he said happened when he was “pulling around” before colliding with a teammate, turned out to be the first concussion Pugh has ever experienced.
Not being familiar with the symptoms associated with a concussion, Pugh knew that the headache he developed shortly afterwards was out of the norm for him.
“The headache was pretty bad,” he said, adding that he also had a little nausea and initial sensitivity to light to go with the headache. “It got better each day. You go through a variety of steps. The medical staff did a great job helping me out and getting me back out there.
Today, as he prepares to get back on the practice field, Pugh said he’s symptom-free and anxious to get going again.
“Obviously missing the reps is something I feel bad about; I wish I could get those back,” he said of the time he spent on the sidelines as a spectator. “But right now I can just go out there and play. I can’t control that now.”
What he was able to control was keeping up as best he could in the classroom even though his sensitivity to light was initially a problem.
“I only missed I think two days in the meeting room and I was able to come back in and get that stuff working,” he said. “Obviously you lose out on two days of film work, which is crucial, but to get back in there, the time is now to get back where you need to be.”
He also said he benefitted from the help he received from his veteran teammates.
“We’ve done things with the veterans helping us out, taking quizzes, getting extra work every day we stay a little extra in the meeting room, the younger guys so we’re where we need to be.”
Moving forward, Pugh said he’s going to try to put the injury behind him and not let it affect his technique or approach.
“It’s something that’s part of the game. You have to keep your head out of it and play heads up football,” he said. “It’s something I know when I’m out there being conscious using my hands, and going down there after the secondary, keeping your head up, and using more technique.”
Pugh said he anticipates being able to go full speed in practice starting today and is hopeful that his long-awaited NFL début will come this Sunday when the Giants host the Colts in their preseason home opener.
“Yeah, for sure. I mean, as long as this week goes well, I don’t see why not,” he said of being ready to start.