East Rutherford, NJ – New York Giants top pick Kywan Thibodaux says he feels “really confident” to be ready to make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers despite being limited in practice for the second day in a row . The rookie missed the opener because of a right MCL sprain he had lost in the second pre-season game more than three weeks ago.
Coach Brian Daboul said Thibodaux took part in a team drill on Wednesday. Thibodaux said he did something else in Thursday’s exercise. 5 pick in this year’s draft worked with a trainer and rode stationary bikes during most of the practice period open to the media.
“Getting closer,” Thibodaux said on Thursday. “Like I said, trying not to look too far – what’s today? It’s Thursday – still Friday, Saturday. I’m really confident this Sunday.”
Thibodaux said he felt “much better” than before. He still has to overcome some obstacles and label himself day to day. He will see how he progresses over the next few days before taking any final decision.
The Giants (1-0) won without an early lead in both Tennessee: Aziz Ozulari and Thibodaux. Ozulari was also limited in Thursday’s practice as he tries to come back from a calf injury during practice this summer.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toni also made an appearance on the injury report on Thursday. He was limited by a hamstring injury, a problem he also dealt with this summer.
Thibodaux and O’Zulari’s presence would be a huge boost against a Carolina offense that has quarterback Baker Mayfield, trailing Christian McCaffrey, and wide receivers DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson.
“Well, you two are talking about the first round[-level talented]So that’s a huge advantage,” Giants defensive coordinator Vink Martindale said of his chances of returning. “But never mind, that game is about to start.”
Thibodaux was always a long shot to play in the opener. Just three weeks after the injury, he was given three to four weeks to return.
So from the very beginning, they were more likely to return in week 2 or 3. It makes sense for the Giants to think long-term with their top draft pick.
“We’re making great profits,” Thibodaux said. “Ultimately it will be how I feel on Friday and Saturday. But everything is going well and I am optimistic about that.”
Thibodaux said in the locker room after Sunday’s win in Tennessee that if it had been the Super Bowl, he might have played. On Thursday, he was asked whether he would have played if there was a game on that day.
“Well, the game isn’t there today,” he said. “So we’ll keep taking it day in and day out. I was able to practice [Thursday], so I did 100% better. I think that’s the way to go, to get better every day.”
The plan is for Thibodaux to play only if it is without restriction. The Giants don’t want a compromised version of the explosive pass-rusher.
Thibodaux is wearing a brace on his right knee during practice that he doesn’t find too uncomfortable or restricting.
“If I’m on the field, I’ll be 100%,” he said. “Right now, I’d say it’s day to day. … I’m very optimistic.”