Sterling Shepard plans to play vs. Dallas; Justin Pugh suffers setback

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard is trending in the right direction for Sunday's matchup with the Dallas Cowboys while right tackle Justin Pugh is heading the other way.

Shepard practiced on a limited basis Thursday but said he ran hard and "felt good" after being held out the previous day. He expects to play this weekend against the Cowboys.

"Hopefully we'll get him back, knock on wood," interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said.

Pugh will not play. He's set to miss his fourth straight game with a back injury. He returned to practice Wednesday and felt great at the start. But it progressively felt worse to the point where he didn't participate in the final period.

"It's definitely a tough situation," said Pugh, who had an MRI.

The Giants could use him on Sunday. Dallas' DeMarcus Lawrence lines up opposite the right tackle and is tied for the league lead with 13.5 sacks. He will now likely face Bobby Hart on Sunday, with rookie Chad Wheeler still dealing with a concussion.

Lawrence had 1.5 sacks against Hart in the opener.

This isn't an ideal situation for the Giants or Pugh. He tried to come back last month and it was too soon. He wasn't able to finish the game against the San Francisco 49ers and is trying to avoid a similar situation this time around.

The Giants (2-10) have four games remaining. Pugh, who will be a free agent this offseason, wants to return this season. But he's in a tough spot.

"I don't want to [shut it down]," he said.

He later added: "That's part of it. It always goes into the decision. Talking with our medical staff they are always making sure I'm doing the best thing for myself and talking to the coaches everyone wants to make sure I'm healthy. That is kind of where we're going. I don't want to make this even worse. It's not at a point right now where I'm going to have to get surgery now. I don't want it to get to that point."

There is also some concern about defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) this week. He didn't practice Thursday for the second straight day. But there remains optimism for Pierre-Paul, who had the hand which was damaged by a fireworks accident heavily wrapped after Sunday's loss in Oakland.

"We're hopeful that he'll be able to go," Spagnuolo said. "We'll see what he does [Friday]."

Cornerback Eli Apple is dealing with hip, back and groin problems. He's just not feeling right and missed his second straight practice.

Running back Orleans Darkwa (illness) also didn't practice.

Shepard, Wheeler (concussion), defensive tackle Damon Harrison (elbow), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle) and running back Wayne Gallman (hip) were all limited.