New York Giants rookie defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux was forced to sit out the 2022 season opener against the Tennessee Titans because of a sprained MCL suffered in the second preseason game, but it sounds like he's nearly ready to return to the field.
Thibodeaux told reporters Thursday he believes he'll have the chance to make his Giants debut this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
"Getting close," Thibodeaux said. "Like I said, trying not to look too far—what is today? Today is Thursday—still have Friday, Saturday. I'm really confident in this Sunday."
Giants head coach Brian Daboll said Thibodeaux participated in team drills Wednesday. During the portion of Thursday's practice that was open to the media, the rookie was reportedly seen working on the side with a trainer and riding a stationary bike.
The No. 5 pick in this year's draft, Thibodeaux has high expectations to be the type of edge-rusher New York has needed. Fellow starting defensive end Azeez Ojulari also missed the opener after suffering a calf injury over the summer, and he was limited in Thursday's practice.
The Giants are hoping to have both their edge-rushers ready in time to face a Panthers offense led by quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Christian McCaffrey.
"Well, you're talking about two first-round[-level talents], so it's a huge benefit," Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said about the prospects of Thibodeaux and Ojulari returning. "But no matter what, that game's going to get kicked off."
When Thibodeaux suffered the injury, it was expected that his recovery would take three to four weeks. The Giants only plan on playing him if he's fully healthy.
The 21-year-old knows he's not completely out of the woods, but he's staying positive ahead of Sunday.
"If I'm on the field, I'll be 100 percent," Thibodeaux said. "Right now, I'd say it's day-to-day. ... I'm very optimistic."