How Xavier McKinney Kept His Focus on His Return from Injured Reserve

The Giants second round draft pick didn't get too down after receiving the devastating news that he had a broken foot. Istead, he stayed locked in and after working hard at his rehab and getting back up to speed with the game, he might soon be ready for his NFL debut.
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Giants rookie safety Xavier McKinney was stunned when he learned that his foot, which seemed to feel unusually sore on a daily basis, was actually broken.

Once the initial shock of his medical diagnosis and the ensuing surgery wore off, the 22-year-old second-round draft pick out of Alabama didn’t dwell on the past so much as he focused on getting ready for the future.

“It started out as a rough start for me. But I just saw it as another opportunity for me to get better for myself--to learn more, and also to make sure my body was up to par with what I needed to be doing to get back right and to come back,” said McKinney in his first public comments since his injury was announced.

While he rehabbed the injury, defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson would give McKinney special “homework” assignments every week to keep him involved and make sure his football mind stayed sharp.

“Yeah, I think I’ve learned a lot,” McKinney said of the exercises Henderson gave him. “They make sure that they gave me something every week.

“Sometimes, it was kind of like little minor things that maybe I could pick out and tell them about maybe that they didn’t see. I was able to watch film on my iPad, and also, I was able to watch the actual game copy because I would watch the games at home sometimes.

“I was able to watch it on TV just to see certain situations, certain formations, certain routes that I’ve maybe never seen or something new to me. It was also good for me to be able to study the QBs and different QBs that we played to kind of just get a feel for how they played and what reads and what they kind of did.”

That involvement, he said, made it easier for him to remain dialed in over his three-month-plus stay on IR. Now that McKinney has been designated to return from injured reserve—his 21-day window officially opened November 23, and there is a very high chance that he will be added to the 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 PM deadline—he’s looking forward to helping out on the field anyway that is asked of him.

I was really excited about my rookie year. I had big, high goals that I set for myself that I wanted to achieve. Once I got hurt, yeah, mentally it got to me at first, but at the end of the day, I knew I still wanted to be as best as I could in my rookie year, whether I was playing or wasn’t, which I haven’t been, and I’ve been out. I’ve been making sure to stay in meetings ever since the day I got hurt and had surgery.

“Once they gave me the green light to (return to the facility after his surgery), I was in the meeting room just trying to be there as much as I could for my team and get better for myself.”

That includes being able to sit back and watch things unfold at game speed, though McKinney said that getting a handle on the game's speed by watching and doing are two very different aspects.

“I’m not used to the speed. I’m trying to get back adjusted to it, which I’ve been doing a pretty good job of doing,” he said. “I think for me, I’m really an instinctive guy. I try to make as many plays as I can for the defense and for the team when I can and wherever I can. It can be a little different when you come back from being off for so long, so it definitely does help to be out there, to get going, that way you get used to it and acclimated to it.”

McKinney isn’t sure how much or what kind of role he’ll play for the Giants when he is activated, but like many rookies, he insisted that wherever the coaches need him, he’ll make sure he’s ready for the challenge.

“I’ve been making good progression throughout the week. Each day, I just try to focus on making sure that I’m doing my job and doing it correctly,” he said. “As far as playing wise, I just leave that up to my coaches and obviously, the medical staff here. I think they’ve done a great job while I’ve been hurt of making sure that I’ve been doing well and making sure I’ve been staying up to par with my conditioning and other things, such as giving me little tasks every week and making sure I stay up on the playbook. But I’m definitely ready to go.”

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