If ever there was a player who needed one dynamic play, one jaw-dropping juke, one give-‘em-something-else-to-talk-about moment, it is Kadarius Toney. So far his career with the Giants has consisted of injuries and COVID-19 and ill-fitting shoes and social media missteps without any counterweight from the football side to balance them out.
On Thursday, he addressed reporters and before taking questions started off talking about the "elephant in the room." That, of course, was a reference to the posts he made on Instagram after last week’s loss that seemed to indicate a level of frustration in how he is being used (he denied that and said his words had nothing to do with the Giants or even football) followed up by a separate post calling the media who reported on the first post clowns (only some of whom fall into that category, he clarified).
Those aren’t necessarily elephant-sized issues. He would not be the first receiver to gripe about not getting the ball or complain about those who cover him. But when the room is devoid of anything else, even a mouse stands out. In fact, that’s when a mouse stands out the most. Right now, such minor nonsense and trivial distractions are the only things we know about him. The on-field stuff? It’s nonexistent.
He’s played sparingly in two games. The first one he was out there for two snaps, got the ball each time, and totaled minus-2 yards. Last week against Washington he played 19 snaps but never touched the ball and wasn’t even targeted.
"If y’all don’t see the progression by now I guess you’re never going to see it," he said of the strides he is making after missing almost all of the offseason program and preseason for a variety of reasons.
That may be the case behind the fences at the team facility, where Joe Judge said Toney is having some of his best practices this week despite being added to the injury report with an ankle injury on Thursday. When the games count and there are people watching, though, he hasn’t done anything yet. Sunday he’ll have another opportunity, assuming his ankle does not hold him back or eliminate him from the game against the Falcons.
"He’ll be a piece of what we’re doing," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. "We were excited to draft Kadarius, we’re excited to have him on our team. We’re excited about playing him."
Until he makes those exciting plays, though, Toney will continue to only be known for the other stuff. Asked what he learned from his social media posts and the reactions to them, he said he plans to go back to not posting anything at all "so I don’t give you anything to talk about."
So far, there has been nothing else to discuss. And in this market, even nothing is something.
He could easily change the conversation by displaying one of the eye-poppers or game-changers on Sunday. The kind of plays he routinely made at Florida and led the Giants to select him with the 20th overall pick. The type that are completely absent from his short NFL resume.
"A play would be pretty good," he said. "But as far as me having that the first thing on my mind when I wake up, not really … I don’t need justification from everybody about what I’m doing."
Toney said he is still getting used to the attention he receives.
"I’m just kind of getting the grasp of it," he said. "I’ll say it’s increased since I’ve been in Florida."
Yet even after everything he’s gone through in his brief time in New York’s pro athlete spotlight, he said he enjoys it. All of it.
"It can either help you or harm you," he said.
On Sunday, he’ll get another chance for things to continue in one of those directions or change to the other.