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From offside to offsite: Toney little more than a distraction for Chiefs ahead of Super Bowl LVIII


Four years ago, Kadarius Toney set the Southeastern Conference on fire with 984 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games as a member of the Florida Gators, earning a litany of award nominations and being anointed All-SEC First Team (All-Purpose) and Second Team (wide receiver).

Having recorded 2,641 all-purpose yards in his 38 games as a Gator, Toney was a touted as a blue-chip prospect entering the 2021 NFL Draft. He had a prospect rating of 6.36 (will eventually be a plus starter), and analyst Lance Zierlein said in Toney’s draft profile, "He'll need more polish but should contribute right away as a receiver and punt returner."

After being drafted by the New York Giants 20th overall, the sky seemed like the limit for the Alabama native.

That was the start of his fall from grace.

Toney put together a lacklustre rookie campaign in the Big Apple. He played in 10 games in 2021, making 39 receptions on 57 targets for 420 yards. He also posted a catch rating 68.4 per cent to go with a drop rating of 3.5 per cent – a preview of what was to come.

The following season, Toney laced up for the Giants' first two games, starting one against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. He had a pair of receptions on three targets across 35 snaps and a drop rating of 33.3 per cent.

While the Giants took to the field in Week 3 to face their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys, Toney did not. It would be the first of five consecutive games he would be inactive, prompting a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Toney made his Chiefs debut in Week 9, a 20-17 win against the Tennessee Titans. He caught two passes for 12 yards. Toney suited up for the Chiefs in Weeks 10-11 before finding himself inactive again.

Toney returned to the field down the stretch in Week 15 against the Houston Texans and remained in the lineup, finishing the regular 2022 regular season with 16 receptions on 20 targets for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

Toney appeared in all three postseason games for the Chiefs and them beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII from Arizona with his receiving touchdown and his electrifying 65-yard punt return.

Entering the 2023 season as defending champs, the Chiefs looked to kick-start the season with a win on national television against the Detroit Lions on Thursday Night Football in their season-opener. Under the lights of Arrowhead and 73K strong, Toney had, statistically, the worst game of his career. He became a social media punching bag on X (formally Twitter) by tallying one reception for one yard and three drops on five targets in the Chiefs' 21-20 loss.

The now 24-year-old responded against the Jags a week later, catching five of five targets for 35 yards. He remained a fixture in the Chiefs lineup until his first scratch in Week 12 against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Toney returned against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13 and in Week 14, against the Buffalo Bills, the noise got loud again.

With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs trailed 20-17, ball in hand on the Bills' 49-yard line. Centre Creed Humphrey snapped the ball to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes connected with a streaking tight end Travis Kelce, who threw a backward pass to Toney. Reeling in the ball, Toney sprinted and high-stepped into the end zone to celebrate his game-clinching touchdown.

So he thought.

A flag was thrown on Toney for offensive offside (a flag rarely thrown) wiping out the major. The Bills would go on to win.

Toney found himself on the inactive list for the second time this season in Week 16 and did not play the remainder of the regular season. Nor did he see the field in the Wild Card and Divisional round as he was announced, per the team’s injury reports, to have a hip/ankle injury.

Frustrated, he took to social media in a profanity-littered Instagram live rant, professing the team lied and he was not injured, despite being listed on the injury report again leading up to the AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens.

"He's been on the injury report, [so] that part is not made up by any means,'' Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Monday when asked to respond to Toney's allegations. 

With the Lamar Hunt Trophy in their clutch, the Chiefs head to Sin City to take on a worthy adversary in the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.

Will Toney be given the opportunity to take the field in the Super Bowl and bring Chiefs fans to their feet as he did a season ago? That's up to Reid to decide.