EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Apple was benched earlier this season. The New York Giants didn’t want to use that specific word. They talked and danced around the situation as if they were a running back searching for a hole behind the offensive line.
It is what it is, though. The cornerback, the No. 10 pick in last year’s draft, didn’t start because of his off-the-field actions.
The Giants (2-11) might want to use some other term, but when a player doesn’t start because of his actions or behavior, it's called a benching.
Fast-forward several weeks and Apple continues to be inactive. The Giants have used different excuses. This week, they blamed his not playing Sunday in a 30-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on a lack of practice reps.
“Yeah, Eli. I talked with Eli. We deactivated him [Sunday],” interim coach and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said after the game. “The decision there was because he just didn’t get enough reps during the week. I talked with him earlier. He’s going to be ready to go next week, and hopefully we’re up and running.”
The way this season has unfolded has to put Apple’s future in doubt, especially with the general manager who drafted him no longer around. Jerry Reese was fired last week, and the Giants are starting Ross Cockrell and Brandon Dixon at cornerback while keeping their former first-round pick inactive.
It's not as if the Giants don't need healthy cornerbacks. Dixon was on the practice squad two weeks ago. Darryl Morris is playing after being picked up off the scrap heap several weeks back.
Apple was listed throughout the week with hip/back injuries. He didn’t practice Wednesday and Thursday and was a limited participant on Friday. A lack of practice reps didn’t land defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) or running back Orleans Darkwa (illness) on the active list. It KO’d Apple for yet another week.
It’s disconcerting for any starter, not to mention a recent top-10 pick. The second-year cornerback said after the loss that he wasn’t allowed to talk with the media. Apple even retweeted something about Cowboys running back Rod Smith icing the game with an 81-yard touchdown reception. (The two were teammates at Ohio State.)
There have clearly been problems with Apple this season. One source said he’s disliked within the organization. That would make sense given he has been shelved the past four weeks and has started only seven games this season.
Apple’s antics have worn thin with the team and his teammates over the course of his second season. There was a report several weeks back that he threatened to leave the facility after being called out in a “brutally honest” team meeting following a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. There were two plays mentioned in which his effort was questioned. One was a punt return for which he barely blocked his man and jogged down the field.
Apple called at least part of the report “lies.” He then dealt with a personal issue that forced him to miss practice time and suffered a hip injury during practice and hasn’t played since.
Spagnuolo said Apple should be back next week.
“That’s the hope,” he said. “That’s the hope.”
Until the Giants come up with another excuse to keep him out of the lineup.