He’s only 29 years old, but Sterling Shepard has seen — and been through — a lot.
This is his seventh season with the Giants, yet Shepard is the longest-tenured player on the roster by two years. He’s the only player on the roster who’s been a part of a winning Giants team — and that took place his rookie year, in 2016.
Now, there’s only one thing the Giants veteran receiver wants more than anything.
To win again.
“That’s why you play the game — you want your teammates to be able to feel what it’s like to win in New York,’’ Shepard told The Post after practice on Wednesday. “New York is quite a place to live whenever you’re able to win. None of those guys [on the current roster] have been able to experience that, so that’s something that I’ve been eager to get back to since my first season here.
“I feel like this team is the team to do it. We have all the pieces.’’
Shepard, who tore his left Achilles’ tendon in a Week 15 loss at Dallas last season and spent the entire offseason rehabbing it, is one of those critical pieces.
The question isn’t whether Shepard will perform once he returns to the field, beginning with the Sept. 11 season opener in Tennessee. It’s whether he can stay healthy. Shepard has always performed pretty consistently when he’s on the field. The problem has been staying on the field.
He’s played all 16 games in only two of his six seasons — in 2018 and 2016. Last season, he was hampered by thigh, hamstring and quadriceps injuries that caused him to miss seven games before he missed the last three with the Achilles.
In 2020, he missed five games with hamstring and quadriceps injuries. In 2019, he played in only 10 games because of concussion issues. In 2017, he missed six games with ankle and neck injuries and migraine headaches.
Shepard is well aware he carries the label as injury prone, but refuses to be defined by it.
“It’s kind of [bad] luck,’’ he said. “I’ve trained as hard as I can every single offseason. I take care of my body. Some things just happen that way. I know when I’m on the field I’m productive.’’
Shepard is right. When he’s on the field, he produces.
Even in a down 2021 season, Shepard had 36 receptions in the seven games he played — numbers that would have projected to 88 catches had he played a full season. In the two seasons when he didn’t miss a game, he caught 66 passes and four TDs in 2018 and had 65 catches and eight TDs in 2016.
Shepard, who received his fair share of teammates’ votes for captaincy on Tuesday, takes pride in leading, whether he has a “C’’ on his jersey or not. He also takes pride in being the longest-tenured Giant, something he called “special.’’
“It shows this is an organization that cares about you, that believes in you,’’ he said. “I’m blessed to have been here for my whole career. That doesn’t happen too often.’’
It, too, says something about the player that the organization has kept him here through four head coaches and offensive systems. It’s no accident Shepard is still wearing Giants blue.
“Something that we talk about a lot with coach Daboll is being a pro,’’ Shepard said. “That’s something that I’ve always taken and cherished — being a pro in all aspects, off the field, on the field, coming to practice every day with the right mentality, the right attitude, being selfless, wanting to see my teammates succeed.
“Those things are what they want to see, and those are what I bring on an everyday basis.’’
Daboll has noticed, saying that Shepard “provides a lot’’ of leadership.
“The whole rehab for him, he’s really worked hard at that to get back,’’ Daboll said. “And he’s a great voice for the receivers in that room. He’s played a lot of football here.’’
Now he’s ready to play more, and he’s stoked about Daboll’s offensive system.
“Love it,’’ Shepard said. “It’s the most wide-receiver friendly offense that I’ve ever played in. You’ve got a chance to let your ability and your talent show.’’
Running back Saquon Barkley, one of Shepard’s close friends, last season when Shepard tore his Achilles described him as a player who “sparks this team,’’ adding, “One thing I know about Shep, he’s a fighter. It’s a setback, but I know he’s going to attack this rehab … and the comeback is going to be something special.”
The comeback begins in earnest on Sept. 11.
“I can’t wait,’’ Shepard said. “This is what I love to do. I love being out there with my brothers and I just want to get back to winning, man. That’s the only thing on my mind.’’