SEATTLE — Nick Gates stood next to Mike Baum and cried during the national anthem Sunday at Lumen Field.
The 6-foot-5, 307-pound Giants offensive lineman cried because this game against the Seattle Seahawks was going to make his comeback from a career-threatening leg injury real and complete. He cried because Baum, the Giants’ trainer, was next to him Sunday just as he was so often as Gates fought to return from a fractured fibula and tibia to his left leg.
“During the national anthem is when I kind of teared up,” Gates said. “I was standing there next to Mike Baum, my trainer, who was there when this happened and he was with me the whole way. I tried to make it a special moment with him and after that I was good.”
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Nothing like a shared moment between the only two men who truly know how much hard work goes into returning from an injury that required seven surgeries.
Gates’ return to the field came in the second quarter shortly after Adoree’ Jackson forced and recovered a fumble at the Seattle 2-yard line. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka went to the jumbo package, allowing Gates to take the field as an extra lineman. He came through with a nice block on Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin that helped Saquon Barkley score a 1-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7-7.
“It felt good,” Gates said of his first game back since he suffered the devastating leg injury in Week 2 last season. “Everything felt strong and solid and I felt ready. It was a special moment definitely. It was just a little bit surreal.”
The only part Gates did not like about his return was the fact that the Giants lost 27-13 and went into their bye week with a 6-2 record.
“Sucks we lost,” Gates said. “But it was a little morale victory for me. I know it’s a huge accomplishment to definitely be back out there and be with my teammates.”
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Gates’ teammates were thrilled for him.
“Yeah, cool moment,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. “Just to see him suit up and run back out there today, knowing what he’s been through, knowing what he had to overcome, I have so much respect for him and how hard he’s worked.”
Before suffering the leg injury last season, Gates started 19 straight games, mostly at center. He had also started one game at right tackle and one at left guard. It will be interesting to see if the undrafted lineman out of Nebraska is able to eventually work his way back into the Giants’ starting lineup.
For now, however, he is happy that he was able to work his way back on to the field. It was enough to make a man cry.
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Bob Brookover can be reached at email@example.com.