Kadarius Toney is the latest first-round pick to provide an injection of new hope to the Giants and their passionate fanbase, but his start has been, well, odd.
Toney's Giants career began in the spring with a wrong-sized pair of cleats, a no-socks practice and an apparent minor injury related to his foot. He then followed that up by skipping the first six OTA practices due to a dispute over his rookie contract, a rarity in today's age of predetermined contracts (via the league's rookie slotting system).
The third and final (the Giants hope) peculiarity of Toney's first year in the NFL was a positive COVID-19 test just before the start of camp. Toney has had anything but a smooth start to his professional career and has made more headlines than highlights at this still very young point of his initial season, but Giants coach Joe Judge doesn't seem to concerned.
"This guy loves football and he goes hard when he's practicing. He plays hard," Judge said of Toney, via the New York Daily News. "There's a lot of guys who are talented and they have some other things outside the building that distract them when they get in the building. We haven't seen that with him.
"This guy does a tremendous job in meetings. He does a great job in walkthroughs. He practices hard. So that to me is really the measuring stick of what it is. And I think there are a lot of things early in this guy's career that are, to be honest with you, being overinflated. It hasn't detracted from the actual football when he's involved with us."
Judge told reporters Tuesday that Toney was back at the team facility and is out of COVID-19 protocol.
Judge's examples are important because of their nature. It's one thing to hold out over a matter that has little room for adjustment (his contract), but it's another if the player in question isn't giving effort necessary to get up to speed as a rookie. Too often, first-round flameouts fail because they aren't doing the off-field work and aren't dedicated enough to be a legitimate contributor in their first year, or at all.
That doesn't appear to be the case with Toney. Instead, it seems he simply needed a different pair of cleats and perhaps better contractual advice in his first months as a pro. With that out of the way and an expected return following his stay on the COVID-19 list -- Toney was asymptomatic last week, per the New York Daily News -- Toney can resume his promising career with Big Blue with most of camp yet to be completed.
He figures to play a role in New York's offense in 2021, though how large it will be remains to be seen. At the very least, though Toney is doing what is necessary to start his progression.
"I just think like every other rookie in this league, this guy's gotta develop," Judge said. "That includes developing off the field, learning how to be a professional, learning how to do things on his own at a high level. On the field, there's always a learning curve. There just is.
"And if you want to look at receivers year by year, it takes a season for these guys to really get rolling," Judge added. "It doesn't mean they don't make impacts or contributions. But especially those slot receivers, guys that play in there, it takes a little while to really learn, to handle all the multiples you're gonna see defensively."
As Judge said, Toney is doing what the coach wants from a rookie. Now it's just a matter of continuing his work toward becoming a key contributor.