EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – R.J. McIntosh was a little worried Tuesday when the New York Giants had a decision to make on his playing status. They had to determine whether to elevate the rookie defensive lineman to the active roster by 4 p.m. or else he would not have been able to play in a game this year. It would have been a completely wasted rookie season.
McIntosh felt a bit of relief when he was added to the active roster. It would mean his NFL debut was inching closer after a undisclosed medical condition kept him out for the entire spring and most of the summer.
The University of Miami product declined to specify what he was dealing with, saying only it lingered longer than expected and that it wouldn't return.
McIntosh also left the NFL combine early with a thyroid issue. He later underwent a procedure in the spring. It’s unknown if the issues were related.
Coach Pat Shumur said Tuesday that McIntosh was out because of a medical issue the Giants were not aware of when they drafted him in the fifth round. It limited him to non-contact workouts and meetings up until three weeks ago. Even then, Shurmur was adamant about McIntosh being “way behind.”
But with the Giants concentrating on the future in the second half of this season, it makes sense for them to put McIntosh on the active roster. He’s made progress in recent weeks and his debut should come in the final eight weeks of the season.
McIntosh could add a needed element to the Giants defense.
“I’m a hard working guy,” said McIntosh, who had 4.5 sacks from the interior in his final two seasons at Miami. “My specialty is pass rushing and I want to be able to be a big factor in that and also be an all-around guy. Help the D-Line room, help the defense and hopefully I’m a big factor in that.”
The Giants could use some interior pass rush help. They have 4.5 sacks from their interior linemen this season. The Rams’ Aaron Donald has 10.0 by himself.
McIntosh (6-foot-5, 286 pounds) said he had lost some weight, but is now close to his playing weight from last year. He believes first-step quickness that got him drafted is returning.
It adds to perhaps one of the few positives for the Giants this season. Their draft class has flashed and in many cases produced immediate returns. Running back Saquon Barkley has shown why general manager Dave Gettleman had him as his highest-graded player since Peyton Manning. Second-round guard Will Hernandez also has a bright future and third-round selections B.J. Hill and Lorenzo Carter are contributing immediately.
If McIntosh returns to his previous form it would add to a promising draft class that could help the Giants rebuild.
“The old me? Yeah,” he said when asked if he was back to his previous form. “There was a little ways to go. I feel like I can get better at everything I do, but I feel good. I’m quicker. My reaction is better than a few weeks ago. My first step is better. But I feel normal.”
The Giants are still likely to bring him along slowly. McIntosh could be inactive Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
“He will fit into the rotation. We’ll see how he progresses. He’s done a good job so far, we’re just learning about him,” Shurmur said. “We’ll just see how much he can handle. We feel like he’s got a future, we had to deal with a medical issue that we were not aware of when we drafted him, so we helped rectify that.
“As long as he’s a Giant, we’re working with him and we’re looking forward to seeing him do good things.”
Finally healthy, they have a chance to see it on the field.