Xavier McKinney returns to Giants practice, wants to play Sunday vs. Colts

Pat Leonard/New York Daily News/TNS

Giants free safety Xavier McKinney returned to practice Thursday with a splint on his surgically-repaired left hand and said he wants to play on Sunday when the Giants (8-6-1) host the Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1).

“Man, I wanna get back big time,” McKinney said with a smile. “It’s just up to the staff and our trainers and docs. I feel fine. I feel confident. They know that I really wanna get back, and I’m kind of running out of patience here. It’s what I love to do. I’m trying to get back out there.”

McKinney, also said he sincerely appreciates the Giants organization’s support in the wake of his early-November, bye week off-roading accident in Cabo.

“It’s been great, the support that they’ve shown me,” he said. “I’ve even told them I appreciate it, because it didn’t have to go that way. I truly am grateful for that and I thank them for showing me that support throughout the whole thing.”

Brian Daboll didn’t sound as optimistic on McKinney’s status for Sunday, when the Giants can clinch a playoff berth with a win.

“Not sure,” the coach said.

Technically, all the Giants did on Thursday was designate McKinney for return from injured reserve. That opens a 21-day window to activate McKinney onto the active roster when he’s ready. He started by working on the scout team defense.

“I think the first thing is just to let him get out here, move around,” Daboll said. “He obviously hasn’t played in a while. He’s got a contraption to protect his hand. So I figure we’ll start [his clock]. He’s been moving around and rehabbing. His lower body is obviously good. So we’ll let him practice and see where he’s at.”

But McKinney insisted he’s ready. He said the broken bones in his left hand are healed. He doesn’t believe any other X-rays or images are required to clear him. And he was clocked running at a team-high 20.5 miles per hour at practice.

“My legs work still,” McKinney said with a smirk.

McKinney also said he caught high-velocity footballs off the JUGS machine and made sure his hand received a lot of contact with teammates. His four fingers were taped together with a splint underneath and his thumb free.

He said the only thing he can’t do is grab someone with that hand, but he’s not worried that it affords less protection than a club. That splint is what he would play with in a game.

“It held up good,” he said.

McKinney has missed the Giants’ last seven games due to an off-roading accident in Cabo during the team’s Week 9 bye. He said he broke “a couple fingers,” and he had surgery on Nov. 8. The team has gone 2-4-1 since his injury.

McKinney’s hand was severely swollen with several pins in the bones on the back of his palm for several weeks as the Giants treaded carefully with his rehab.

It would be nice to have him back, but Jason Pinnock’s emergence and impressive play in McKinney’s place might allow Daboll to err on the side of caution and wait until Week 18 or the playoffs to activate his starter.

It also wasn’t easy to gauge McKinney’s practice by talking to teammates like corner Adoree Jackson, who has missed the Giants’ last five games with a sprained MCL in his knee.

“I mean, he can move,” Jackson said of McKinney. “He just broke his hand.”

McKinney said he is hopeful to be cleared soon after he and the Giants worked together to make sure his accident didn’t become a bigger problem for both of them.

“I don’t think it was a surprise because honestly, in my opinion, I’ve done a lot of things they’ve asked even before [like] doing my job, being a great leader, everything from top to bottom,” he said of their mutual work to find a solution. “So I wasn’t surprised about how they handled the situation. We were transparent with each other. I think that’s always the biggest thing is to have those conversations with each other and come to an agreement with different things.”

NEAL KEEPS GRINDING

Rookie right tackle Evan Neal wasn’t the only Giants offensive lineman who struggled in pass protection at times last Saturday against a Minnesota Vikings pass rush led by Danielle Hunter (two sacks).

But the No. 7 overall pick is a key building block, and having difficult games is a pretty new concept to such an elite former Alabama standout. So it was worth checking in on how Neal has processed the ups and downs.

He told the Daily News on Wednesday that he noticed some correction points while reviewing the film.

“I need to keep my feet moving, trust my hands and punch,” he said.

But he also defended his and the offensive line’s overall performance.

“There were also times where the protection held up and Daniel drove the ball down the field,” Neal said.

He’s absolutely correct. The pass protection was better in the second half. Daniel Jones threw for 334 yards, and the Giants racked up a season-high 445 yards on offense. So the line did more than something right.

Neal has played plenty of good football, too. A rough early-season showing against the Cowboys and a midseason sprained MCL haven’t kept him from making an impact.

He also showed in Minnesota that he has a short memory to recover from some bad plays to make good ones, which is a great sign for a developing player.

“In games, there’s no time to harp on it, because you’ll lose the next play if you’re worried about the last,” Neal said. He said his process is to keep working and get better.

SMITH RESTS WITH DAVIS ON BOARD

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said he was giving inside linebacker Jaylon Smith a “vet day” Thursday. Interestingly, that coincided with new ILB Jarrad Davis’ first practice with the team. It’s possible Davis will play Sunday after being signed off the Lions’ practice squad. It sounds like Smith is a bit banged up, even though he’s not on the injury report.

“Jaylon’s playing well,” Martindale said. “He’s a first and second down linebacker for us. He’s playing well. Today we’re gonna give him a vet day. I think the wear and tear of the season is catching up with him a little bit. But you see it. We’re gonna play who we think is best, get ‘em in there and go.”

GIANTS INJURY REPORT: Limited: CB Jackson (knee), DL Leonard Williams (neck), OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle). Full: DL Dexter Lawrence (rested Wednesday).

COLTS INJURY REPORT: Did not practice: CB Kenny Moore II (ankle), WR Ashton Dulin (concussion), TE Kylen Granson (ankle). Full: S Rodney McLeod Jr. (rested Wednesday).