Jihad Ward is on a mission. That mission? Making sure that New York Giants No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, who has not practiced since early in OTAs with an undisclosed injury, is minding his Ps and Qs and will know the defensive playbook when training camp opens next month.
“I’m on his ass,” said Ward, a veteran edge defender signed as a free agent this offseason. “I’m on him. Make sure he studies the playbook and stuff like because I don’t want him to play slow ... he’ll be ready. He’ll definitely be ready.”
As a veteran player, Ward admitted he feels like making sure Thibodeaux is handling his business is part of his responsibility.
“Yeah, shoot, we drafted him, right? We drafted him, and he’s a special guy for the defense,” Ward said on Wednesday. “My job is to get him right and all of our jobs basically — he’s dialed in. He’s ready. Once he comes with this situation, I don’t know his injury, so whatever situation he’s got going on, he’ll be ready in training camp and be ready to go. I just don’t want him to be learning while he’s playing. I want him to go.”
Ward, in his seventh season, played parts of two seasons for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale with the Baltimore Ravens. A seemingly gregarious personality, Ward has not hesitated to be a vocal, energetic presence on the field.
“He’s got constant energy. He’s excellent in meetings. I’d say from my experience, not all the time, but when you’re a player that comes in as a free agent from another team, it’s a little bit harder to lead right away because you are swimming with a new playbook and new surroundings,” said head coach Brian Daboll.
“I’m not saying you’re a rookie, but kind of like that. You kind of take a step back and just kind of feel things out.
“He kind of jumped right into the deep end. He’s got a great personality, energetic. I love the way he practices. He’s always running to the ball. I’d say he helps out … he’s great with like Kayvon and those young guys in his room. He’s been a really good addition.”
Ward said he is just being himself.
“I’m just out here living life, chilling, freedom. I do what I do on the field and off the field and make sure all the guys are straight,” he said. “It’s my job to do that, make sure the culture — we need more culture in here. I will say that in my opinion.”
What does that mean?
“When you’re in a grind like this, you really don’t have time with your family. All I can say is when you come here ready to work, it’s time to go,” Ward said. “It’s like a Navy Seal type stuff, so you’ve got to just come together in order to win games. I can’t come to Kayvon (Thibodeaux) and not know anything about him. You’ve got to know my background, know his background. It’s deeper than that. Everybody has just got to come together as one. I’m more of a person, you ride for me, I ride for you. If you’re not riding for me, then I can’t be around you.”
It isn’t hard to see that young Giants edge defenders like Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Elerson Smith and Quincy Roche will benefit from having Ward around.