If Leonard Williams is the Giants’ Iron Man, then a sprained MCL must be the newest Marvel villain.
Williams’ odds-defying career-long streak of 112 straight games without missing one due to injury is likely to end after he limped off the field in Sunday’s win against the Panthers.
An MRI on Williams’ right knee revealed Monday that the extent of the damage is “better than it could be” — essentially ruling out a season-ending torn ACL — said head coach Brian Daboll. But NFL Network reported a sprained MCL (which generally carries a two to four week recovery timeline) and not “much” missed time expected.
Williams’ teammate Kayvon Thibodeaux suffered a sprained MCL on Aug. 21 — four weeks ago — and has not practiced in full or played since. The Giants play each of the next six weeks before a bye.
Not only is Williams available every game despite the physicality of the trenches, he was among the NFL leaders in snaps played on the defensive line last season (888) and was headed for a repeat with 87 in seven quarters this season.
“Hopefully he’s a fast healer,” Daboll said.
The Giants replaced Williams with Justin Ellis against the Panthers, but there really is no replacing an 80-percent-snap workhorse like Williams.
“When you are one of the best players, that’s where you are going to end up,” defensive line coach Andre Patterson told The Post last week. “He’s getting paid a lot of money [$19 million cash in 2022] for a reason. When the game is on the line, you want your best guys out there.”
Williams had seven tackles over two games and was a huge part of limiting bulldozer Derrick Henry to 3.9 yards per carry in the season-opener. Patterson said Williams does a good job of “affecting the quarterback” with his pass rush.
“We’ve harped on him to be in great shape,” Patterson said. “It doesn’t say anything bad about the people we have behind him. It’s just a matter of he’s an elite player. You want to keep the guys on the field who have a chance to make plays to change the game around.”
Receiver Kenny Golladay played just two snaps in Sunday’s game.
Asked if he has to run that decision by either general manager Joe Schoen or co-owner John Mara given that Golladay is due $18 million this season, Daboll said, “Joe and I collaborate on pretty much everything in our building.
“The thing we want to create is as competitive a team as we can. Regardless of where you are drafted, how you got here, how much money you make, we believe in everybody goes out there and competes — and we play the guys that earn the right to play that week.”
Third-string RB Gary Brightwell’s first career carry as a fullback — at any level of football — resulted in a 14-yard gain to convert a third-and-1 on the game-winning drive. The Giants sent second-stringer Matt Breida in pre-snap motion and faked a pitch to Saquon Barkley after the inside handoff to Brightwell.
“It was just a typical short-yardage play that I knew I had to get that 1 yard and whatever comes after is extra,” Brightwell said. “I’m not really sure what they expected. If Saquon is in the backfield, they should be expecting him to get the ball — one of the best running backs in the NFL.”
LB Jaylon Smith is rejoining the Giants as a member of the practice squad, according to sources. A Pro Bowler with the 2019 Cowboys, he played four games (two starts) for the Giants at the end of last season and returned as a group of players who worked out for team brass Monday.