Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux #5 of the New York Giants...

Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux #5 of the New York Giants looks onward during warm ups against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. Credit: Getty Images

Kayvon Thibodeaux doesn’t necessarily look like someone poised to make his NFL debut on Sunday based upon his very limited participation in practices during the open portion of workouts so far this week, but he sure sounded like one when he talked to reporters in the locker room.

“We’re getting close,” the first-round pick who is recovering from a sprained MCL in his right knee said on Thursday. “I’m really confident in this Sunday ... We’re making great gains. Ultimately it will come down to how I feel on Friday and Saturday but everything has been going well and I’m optimistic about it.”

Thibodeaux was listed as limited in Thursday’s practice. Brian Daboll said he has been getting some team reps but Thibodeaux said those have come mostly on scout teams as he continues to test his knee and get used to playing with the brace he will don when he does return.

After missing the Week 1 win over the Titans, Thibodeaux said he is looking forward to making his NFL debut.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said of his potential NFL debut. “It’s been a crazy year’s worth of events and it’ll will be unbelievable to be out there.”

Perhaps too unbelievable. Despite Thibodeaux’s proclamations, the Giants are not as confident in his availability against the Panthers. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said he is going through this week not expecting him or Azeez Ojulari (calf) on the field, but if they are they will be welcomed.

“You’re talking about two first round picks, so it’s a huge benefit,” he said of Thibodeaux and Ojulari (who was actually a second-round pick). “But no matter what, that game’s going to get kicked off.”

Maybe with Thibodeaux in uniform for the first time. Maybe without him.

“Right now I’m still day-to-day,” Thibodeaux said. “But I am very optimistic. It’s good.”

Notes & quotes: WR Kadarius Toney popped up on the injury report for the first time this season, listed as a limited participant on Thursday with a hamstring issue. The former first-round pick played just seven offensive snaps against the Titans although both he and Daboll insisted that tiny amount of playing time was not due to any injury issues. “I felt like I was straight, I was all right,” Toney said Wednesday of his physical status in Week 1 … Rookie S Dane Belton tested his fractured collarbone in practice and said he has confidence in delivering hits when he plays, which is expected to be Sunday. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale suggested Belton would be used sparingly, more because of the time he missed in the preseason than any lingering physical issues.

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