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Biggest obstacle for Giants' Kadarius Toney: Dealing with loss of his grandmother

Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney runs with the

Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney runs with the ball during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Thursday. Credit: Brad Penner

Kadarius Toney has had a bumpy entry into the NFL.

From his first day on the field in rookie minicamp when his cleats were giving him blisters and he tried to practice barefoot to showing up for training camp and testing positive for COVID-19, it seems there is always something that gets in the way of his full integration into the team. Thursday was the first time since the Giants drafted him in the first round that he participated in a full practice, and that was a slow-paced walk-through after several days in full pads.

Those are all of the obstacles people see and react to. The one that really jolted Toney, though, was a much more private turn of events.

He first heard about it during veteran training camp with the Giants, when he received a call in the locker room that his grandmother, Suzette Ntseful, was gravely ill. The Giants excused him from the rest of the workouts and sent him back to Alabama to be with her and his family. She passed away a few days later, on June 19. Toney was there.

"She meant a lot to me," Toney told Newsday on Thursday. "She basically taught me the ways of life, taught me to be the person I am today. Losing her, it was detrimental."

More so than the practices missed due to COVID.

"It was pretty tough," he said of the isolation, "but it wasn’t that bad.".

More than the typical head-spinning that all rookies go through.

"I feel like I’m getting better every day and learning the playbook ore each day," he said.

Despite the recent loss, Toney said he is not dedicating this season or his career to his grandmother.

"If you dedicate a season to somebody you’ll have that on your mind more than what you have to do," he said. "I have to stay focused. I have a lot of people who are not with me anymore and I feel like I do it every day for them."

That doesn’t mean she will be far from his thoughts as he embarks on his rookie season, though.

"I know she is watching me at all times," he said. "I have to show her what I can do now that I’ve made it to this level."

In a way, it’s now up to the Giants to finish what Ntseful started. To take the 22-year-old young man she began molding and allow him to reach his full potential.

"The biggest thing for him is being a pro," wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. "There are guys who come into the league and just don’t know how to be a pro. They’re used to having a lot of structure, people telling them what to do all the time. Here in the NFL you don’t have that."

Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey also noted the big jump Toney is being asked to make.

"This ain’t The Swamp," he said of Toney’s time playing for the Florida Gators in college. "This is the Meadowlands."

The football stuff? The Giants are tickled by what Toney might be able to give them … even if they have yet to fully experience it in his limited practice reps.

"We’re excited about Kadarius," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. "We’re excited to get him out there and see what he can do. There are a lot of positive things on tape from college. Obviously that’s why we drafted him as high as we did."

Tolbert said Toney is attentive and involved in meetings. He also said he is helped by his background as a high school and early college quarterback, which allows him to see the game from a different perspective.

"I’ve had guys like that before and it turned out pretty well for them," Tolbert said. "Roscoe Parrish was one. And Anquon Boldin was a high school quarterback … I had him in Arizona and he was rookie of the year."

There’s no guarantee Toney will have the same accomplishments and career as those players. It’s up to him to achieve that. With some help and guidance, naturally.

His grandmother was in that role for most of his life. The Giants will have to pick up that task.

Notes & quotes: Joe Judge did not provide a timetable for the return of WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring). "We’re hoping for the best," he said … Judge said he told LB Todd Davis and OL Joe Looney, both of whom retired shortly after signing contracts with the Giants in the past week, that the door would be open for them to return if they changed their mind during the season.

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