New York Giants rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux has a sprained MCL, the team announced Monday after initial testing on the defensive end's right knee. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Thibodeaux's right ACL and meniscus were intact, and the Giants say they remain hopeful the first-round pick will be ready for their regular-season opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 11, the source told Schefter.
It's a race against time. There are 20 days until the first Sunday of the season.
"Fingers crossed," coach Brian Daboll said. "Hopefully his rehab goes well and he can get out there as soon as he can."
Thibodeaux suffered the injury in Sunday's preseason game against the Bengals when he was cut-blocked in the second quarter by Cincinnati's Thaddeus Moss. Thibodeaux immediately grabbed his right knee and walked off the field, but the former Oregon star later told reporters that he was "all right."
It was a play that Daboll said afterward was within the rules. But it was met with mixed reviews by former and current players. Ex-Giants offensive lineman Chris Snee told ESPN that he cut-blocked a player once in the preseason throughout his career. That was against Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who let him have it after the play.
Lewis even approached Snee after the game and explained why you don't cut-block in the preseason, especially when it's from the side.
Moss is in a different situation. He is in his third professional season trying to make the Bengals' roster and has yet to appear in a regular-season game. Daboll considered the play with Thibodeaux one of those "tough blocks" that comes from across the line of scrimmage.
Thibodeaux, the fifth pick in this year's draft, was having a strong summer and had a quarterback pressure earlier in Sunday's contest. He was playing for the first time this summer opposite outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, who was sidelined for the start of training camp because of a hamstring injury.
Oshane Ximines and Quincy Roche are players who Daboll said could be asked to handle bigger roles with Thibodeaux sidelined. Jihad Ward is also rehabbing from a minor injury and is expected back soon.
The Giants are expecting big things this season from Thibodeaux, who has been working with the first-string defense since the start of OTAs in the spring. The missed time will be a setback.
"Every time you miss a practice, it's valuable practice," Daboll said. "You try to simulate it as best you can to gain live reps, but as many repetitions as any of our guys can get -- whether it's a rookie or veteran -- I think it helps them, helps each unit.
"Again, KT has been doing everything we asked him to do since he's been here. He's been a good teammate. He's worked extremely hard. Certainly, time missed, you never want to miss some time. But he has the right attitude, the right approach. He'll rehab as hard as he can rehab and be ready to go when he's ready to go."
Thibodeaux had 19 sacks in 30 career games at Oregon and entered last season as the potential No. 1 prospect in college football. If he's not ready for the opener against the Titans, the Giants host the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 and then play the following Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
That could potentially make Thibodeaux's NFL debut in a prime-time matchup against a division rival.