When Xavier McKinney thinks back to when he fractured his foot during training camp, the Giants rookie safety recalls how everything seemed to happen so fast.
The Giants drafted McKinney in the second round of the draft in April, and by August, he was placed on injured reserve. McKinney said he underwent surgery just hours after finding out he had broken a bone in his left foot.
“I had to process it really fast,” McKinney said on a Zoom call Friday. “At the beginning stages of it, in my head, it was a rough start for me. But I just saw it as another opportunity to get better for myself, to learn more and also to make sure my body was up to par with what I needed to be doing to come back.
“It was tough in the beginning, but as time went on, I just started working and trying to improve my game.”
Time continued to charge on, and McKinney is expected to make his long-awaited NFL debut this Sunday against the Bengals. Coach Joe Judge said he has been “encouraged” by the way McKinney has “moved around and looked so far.”
Considering the Giants (3-7) are suddenly in the thick of the fight in the NFC East, McKinney’s timing couldn’t be more ideal.
“The little bit that we were able to see of him rehabbing before this, he looked like he was in shape to come back,” Judge said before practice. “I’d say that everything has been on track with him being on a timely return. [Friday] is going to be a big day for him in terms of situations and how he can handle it. There’s more to it than just being able to run around out there.
“We have to make sure mentally he can fire on the same page as everybody else. But we’re going to make the decision after practice [Friday].”
The Alabama product admitted that it was tough to come to terms with beginning his rookie season on IR. But he said the coaching staff kept him busy and gave him homework every week, while he watched endless film and attended meetings.
With such high hopes for his first year in the league, McKinney said it was easy to stay focused.
“I was able to watch film on my iPad, and also I was able to watch the actual game copy, because I would watch the games at home sometimes,” the 22-year-old said. “I was able to watch it on TV just to see certain situations, certain formations, certain routes that I’ve maybe never seen or something new to me.
“It was also good for me to be able to study the QBs and different QBs that we played to kind of just get a feel for how they played and what reads and what they kind of did.”
Logan Ryan, whom the Giants signed the same week that McKinney was injured, has been the starting free safety, while Jabrill Peppers has started all but one game at strong safety. McKinney said he has learned a lot from both of them during his rehab.
“It’s just been great to be back out there on the field in general,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment, I’ve been really excited for it.”
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