Giants' Jihad Ward during the minicamp at the team's training...

Giants' Jihad Ward during the minicamp at the team's training facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 8, 2022. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

While there is some concern whether first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux will be available for the start of training camp after missing almost all of the offseason program with an apparent groin injury, at least one of his teammates is certain the dynamic edge rusher will be ready when the team assembles for the real deal in late July.

In fact, Jihad Ward has made it his job to be sure of it.

“I’m on his [butt],” Ward, the veteran linebacker signed as a free agent this offseason, said on Wednesday. “I’m on it making sure he studies the playbook and all of that because I don’t want him to play slow . . . He’ll definitely be ready and I can’t wait.”

Ward was signed to help the defense as someone who had experience playing in new coordinator Wink Martindale’s system. He’s developed into much more for a unit that is currently without any of the three captains who played for the team a year ago (Logan Ryan was released, Jabrill Peppers was not re-signed, and Blake Martinez continues to rehab from a torn ACL).

“He kind of jumped right into the deep end,” coach Brian Daboll said of Ward’s leadership. “He's got a great personality, energetic. I love the way he practices. He's always running to the ball . . .  He’s great with Kayvon and those young guys in his room.”

Ward said that’s not what he’s going for.

“I’m just being me,” he said. “You can’t pretend to be a leader.”

But he also has enough experience — and confidence — to say that the Giants still have to work on building their culture, take some fun pokes at Martindale, and, of course, become an early mentor to Thibodeaux.

“He’s a special guy for the defense so my job is to get him right, all of our jobs is to get him right,” Ward said of the rookie.

And when Thibodeaux does step back on the field, whether that is at the start of training camp or beyond?

“I don’t want him to be learning while he’s playing,” Ward said. “I want him to go.”

Notes & quotes: WR Kenny Golladay saw his most active day of the spring program participating in individual drills while still wearing a red injury jersey. Golladay even ran some routes without being covered while catching passes from QB Daniel Jones. Fellow injured WR Kadarius Toney continued to work by himself on the side during practice . . . A day after the defense dominated, the offense rebounded in the limited full-squad reps on Wednesday with Jones throwing four TDs, including two to rookie Wan’Dale Robinson, in the tight red zone. Most of the rest of Wednesday’s practice was held at a lighter pace and there were even some drills done without helmets, a new wrinkle for the Giants . . . Graham Gano kicked a 53-yard field goal at the end of the workout, which earned the players and coaches a pass from their daily running routine. Gano was lifted and carried off the field as if his kick had just won a playoff game.

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