Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Giants pumps up the crowd against the...

Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Giants pumps up the crowd against the Commanders at MetLife on Dec. 4, 2022. Credit: Mike Stobe

Say this for Kayvon Thibodeaux: He does not tread softly.

A first-round pick of the Giants, he is wondrously talented. (Obviously.)

He can take over a game. (Ask the Commanders.)

He can tick off an opposing coach. (Hello, Jeff Saturday.)

And he can make a defensive coordinator dream of possibilities. (Ask Wink Martindale.)

He is a rookie who is almost always at his locker and who has answered any and all questions.

He is an unhurried interviewee. Asked to assess his rookie season, he did not hesitate.

“I would say it’s definitely not the greatness that I hoped for,” Thibodeaux told Newsday. “But it’s definitely what I deserve, as far as being able to contribute to the team, being able to grow, being able to use this as my platform, there’s [definitely] more. And I think that’s my opportunity. My opportunity is that there is more [to come].”

And he is headed to the playoffs in his rookie season.

“It’s definitely a blessing. You definitely are grateful,” Thibodeaux said. “All I can do is contribute as much as I can and try to make plays for my teammates because I know how hard it is to make it to the postseason.”

He stopped himself.

“Or I’ve heard how hard it is to make it to the postseason.” (All he has to do is ask Leonard Williams.)

He considers this the advent of a long career spent — in his vision — in winning postseasons. Why shouldn’t he?

“For me, this is a start,” Thibodeaux said. “I see a lot of places where I’ve improved and I see a lot where I can continue to grow. For me, looking back, I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do, I’m proud of what my team has helped me do. I’m proud of what the team has done. We just have to continue to go forward.”

A week ago, Thibodeaux found himself in the crosshairs of the Colts, Saturday in particular, when he did “snow angels” on the field right next to injured Colts quarterback Nick Foles. After being sacked by Thibodeaux, Foles injured his ribs, left the game and did not return.

“So what am I supposed to do now? Every time I sack a quarterback, stop and look and make sure and help him up?’’ Thibodeaux said. “You don’t play the game for anybody to get injured. But I play defense. They brought me here to be a savage and to take over the game and to impact the game. We preach impacting the game is affecting the quarterback, and that’s what I’m here to do.’’

His defensive coordinator backed him, saying that Thibodeaux did not know Foles was injured on the play.

“That’s a dangerous play when there’s two free runners coming off the edge of the backside of the quarterback,” Martindale said, “but he did not know that Nick Foles was hurt, and he wouldn’t have done that if he did know that.”

Martindale, who has coached in the NFL since 2004, understands the kind of talent he has in Thibodeaux.

“I know the guy, I know the person, I know his heart,” he said. “I get a little protective of that, I know I do, probably sounded that way, but that’s just how I feel.”

Thibodeaux lockers in the defensive line area of the locker room. He said Dexter Lawrence has been particularly helpful when it comes to understanding the cohesiveness of the line and being able to rush as a unit.

“Some sacks are free, some are team sacks, some are effort sacks,” Thibodeaux said. “Yeah, understanding those nuances has helped me tremendously.”

Coming from the University of Oregon, there was going to be not only a learning curve but other challenges in learning the NFL game.

“Definitely, definitely,” Thibodeaux said. “I’ve found a different level of resiliency within myself that I didn’t know was there. Now, just being able to overcome being tired, overcome being down, being able to play against the best players in the [league] and giving them a fight every time, it’s a blessing.”


“It’s been a battle,” he said. “No [offensive] tackle we went against is a scrub.”

Thibodeaux has learned some life lessons as well.

“Just that perception is everything,” he said. “To me, that’s the only answer that there is. There’s a fine line. You can’t leave room for speculation and interpretation in this game. That’s where I fault myself, leaving the world waiting for answers.”

He said he has taken Martindale’s advice.

“Just to keep going,” Thibodeaux said. “Everybody’s always going to have an opinion, everyone’s going to have something to say. But all I can control is my effort and what I do for my teammates. So keeping that in mind, and knowing that the road’s going to be hard. You’re not always going to be at the top and you’ve got to learn to battle back.”

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