EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Xavier McKinney is confident he will return to the field in the 2022 season, but doesn't know when that might be.
The third-year safety will miss his fifth consecutive game Sunday, when the Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles in MetLife Stadium. He has been sidelined since fracturing fingers on his left hand in a bye week accident in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. McKinney underwent surgery and took a big step forward this week when he had pins removed from his fingers.
Perhaps that's why he expressed optimism about returning this season, in which five games – and hopefully the playoffs – remain.
"Oh yeah, for sure," he said. "That's still the plan, obviously, to get back. But just got to keep listening to the doctors and what they say. But everything has been positive so far. So, that's a good thing.
"I've been having good movement with my fingers. Hopefully, I can get out there as soon as I can. But that's what I'm working on; I'm trying my best. But all I can do is let it heal, let them keep helping me rehab it and go from there."
Although he is eager to get back in uniform, McKinney concedes much uncertainty remains regarding when he will step on the field.
"No timetable, really," he said. "I'm just working off what they tell me. Obviously, I think I can come back this year. And I'm working on that – just making sure I'm in there every day rehabbing, making sure I'm doing what I need to be doing and what they ask me to do and also staying in shape, being in the meetings, staying locked in. So, it's the same that I've been doing: Still being here for the guys, helping where I can help and going from there."
McKinney said he's been pain-free, but "(I) still have a way to go."
Coach Brian Daboll said yesterday, "I don't know that answer" when asked about McKinney's potential return. "I hope so."
McKinney has begun running, which is another indication of progress in his rehabilitation.
"I was on bike stuff before," McKinney said. "I could've run before, but they wanted me to wait until the pins came out. I actually just ran on the treadmill today, and I'm still in shape. So, I'm good. I'm probably going to start running outside at some point and convince them to let me run outside because I'm fine to run."
One significant question is whether McKinney will have to wear a club to protect his hand when he does play in a game. He is confident he can be productive with a club.
"I said that when it first happened," he said. "I played with a club before in college in a couple practices, so I know what it feels like. So, I think I can play in a club for sure.
"Obviously, it's harder. But I don't mind it. It'll be harder for sure because you can't really catch the ball. But you can always body catch, too. That's what a lot of people do anyways."
McKinney said the next step is to get a CT scan to gauge how well the bones in his fingers are healing. Being righthanded has helped him.
"I can move (his fingers)," McKinney said. "When they put the wrap on there, I can't really move them because I don't have a lot of strength in them right now. When they take them off, then I can move them."
His biggest challenge has nothing to do with bones healing but watching from the sideline as the Giants battle for a postseason berth.
"It's been a lot, I'm not going to lie," McKinney said. "Mentally, it's been a lot for me. Every Sunday, really every day when they go out there and practice – just knowing that I can't be out there with them and obviously on Sundays not being able to actually play, it sucks. It hurts a lot. Like I said, it's been a lot, but they've been around. And they've been helping me out too. Credit to them. Credit to the coaches. Credit to everybody that's been in the building just keeping me in high spirits. And obviously, I got my family, too, keeping me in high spirits.
"Just being around the game still, it's still helping me out and keeping me up. Like I said, just being able to help them wherever I can and still being able to feel like I'm helping in any way that I can help. Everybody that's been asking me to help has been good for me and keeping me up."
*Saquon Barkley was limited in practice today and is listed as questionable for the game Sunday vs. Philadelphia with a neck issue.
"Week 14, his neck's a little sore, so (we) put him on the injury report," Daboll said. "I think it's just a long season, sore, so (we'll) see where he is today. Probably limited today again, too."
Asked if he thinks Barkley will play Sunday, Daboll said, "I hope so."
Does he have any doubt Barkley wouldn't play?
"I'd say, probably got to see," Daboll said.
In his weekly conversation with reporters yesterday, Barkley was asked about his current physical condition.,
"What week is it? 13, 14?" he said. "I feel like it's Week 13 or 14 in the season, no matter if I had 200 touches or 10 touches (he has 282). It's a grind. It's the wear and tear of the mind, the body. That's the nature of the NFL but also the beauty of it. I know people saying slow it down – I really don't see it like that. I think we play some tough teams. I think it's been November, December football and we've been playing meaningful games, going against some really good teams and they've been doing a really good job. Now, it's on my side where I've got to continue to reflect on myself and see what I can do better and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there."
Barkley has started all 12 games this season and is fourth in the NFL with 1,055 rushing yards and fifth with 1,296 scrimmage yards. He leads the Giants with eight touchdowns – twice as many as runner-up Daniel Jones – and 40 receptions.
*Defensive lineman Leonard Williams did not practice this week and is listed as doubtful because of the neck injury he suffered last week against Washington. A knee injury kept Williams off the field in Weeks 3-5, the first games he missed due to injury in his eight-year career.
*Cornerback Adoree' Jackson (knee) will miss his third consecutive game. Offensive lineman Shane Lemieux (toe) and Joshua Ezeudu (neck) have also been declared out.
*When asked about the Eagles' offensive players this week, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale volunteered that he holds Philadelphia center Jason Kelce in extremely high regard.
"I have the utmost respect for Jason Kelce," Martindale said. "I think he is the Tom Brady, the Peyton Manning of centers. I think he's a Hall of Fame center. He's smart; he knows what protections to get them into. It's always a challenge to try to get free runners against the Eagles because of that guy, how he studies the game. I have the utmost respect for him. I respect him like I do Aaron Rodgers and those guys."
Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence has battled in the trenches with Kelce six times.
"I look forward to playing against great people," Lawrence said. "You like to see how you compete against the best, and definitely one of the best centers in the league. Just his savviness, his smarts, the way he can create angles for himself. It's from some of the best. He knows how to create angles for himself and put himself in power positions."
Lawrence said he and Kelce also engage in a verbal back and forth during the game.
"I'm a talker," Lawrence said. "It's just trash talk. I don't really say stuff to harm people's family or none of that. Just talking – nothing nasty. I'm just talking to him."
Lawrence said he makes it a point to seek out Kelce after the game.
"For sure," he said. "You got to respect the guys you're going against. You got to respect the game and that's what you do after the game."
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