PHOENIX – Kadarius Toney stood at the center of Super Bowl LVII Opening Night on Monday, surveyed the strange scene unfolding around him, and smiled.
“It’s breathtaking,” Toney said, standing amid thousands of credentialed media at Footprint Center, not too far away from a man dressed as the mascot for a prominent deodorant brand. “This is probably the biggest stage I’ll ever be on. I’m just taking it all in right now.”
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Toney knows he’s only here, at the Super Bowl where he could be an X-factor against the Eagles, because things went so spectacularly wrong with the Giants – who traded him to the Chiefs in October, 18 months after they drafted him No. 20 overall.
“You try to work toward these types of games,” Toney said. “It’s unfortunate how I got here, I guess you could say.”
And many analysts and fans did, labeling him as a lost cause who was unwilling or unable to play through pain when his Giants tenure ended with more injuries than touchdowns (zero) in just 12 games.
But if Toney has any lingering ill will toward the Giants, and the damage his time with them did to his reputation, he isn’t showing it as he gets ready to play in the biggest game of his life.
“At the end of the day, I mean, I don’t really got nothing to say about that,” Toney said with a laugh when asked if he was unfairly judged during his time with the Giants. “It’s going to be whatever. I’m just going to focus on what I’ve got to do now. I’m not worried about nothing in the past.”
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And as for the Giants fans who celebrated his departure, for a (third- and sixth-round pick)?
“I appreciate the ones who were excited for me [to be] there, but the ones who weren’t really for me, I don’t really have much to say.”
It’s easy look beyond the past when you’re a win away from a championship and Patrick Mahomes is your quarterback. It’s been a good fit for Toney, who has made the impact for the Chiefs he never could with the Giants.
“That s--- [has] been satisfying, just to go out there and really execute and play the way I can,” Toney said. “I mean, I know I can play. I mean, never been a problem. I just had nicks and injuries. I played through injuries and stuff like that. S--. It is what it is.”
He’s scored three touchdowns in seven games regular season games in Kansas City, where he’s earned a situational role as an explosive weapon for the offense and as a punt returner.
After being discarded by the Giants, he has proven that he can be a dangerous playmaker on one of the most visible teams in the NFL, including playing a meaningful role in the first two playoff games.
But a familiar issue surfaced in the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs when he suffered an ankle injury and was forced out of the game. And it’s not the first time it has happened as Toney has suffered various injuries keeping him off the field for three games in November and December.
Toney wouldn’t say the severity of the injury when asked if it was a high ankle sprain.
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“I mean, I don’t get into all that,” Toney said, but added that he would have been able to practice on Monday and plans to play on Sunday, bristling at the notion that he wouldn’t play in the Super Bowl if he was able to.
“Yeah, it’s obvious,” Toney said. “I don’t know why you all seem to ask me that.”
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Andy Vasquez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.