Saquon Barkley has been forced to watch his New York Giants reel off a three-game winning streak and catapult into first place in the NFC East from the couch after tearing his ACL in Week 2 and undergoing subsequent surgery to repair the injury.
While the general consensus among doctors is that an athlete can return to action between six and nine months after such a procedure — and the Giants believe he’ll be ready for training camp in August of 2021 — the star running back did reveal a timetable for his comeback.
For now, it’s all about staying positive.
“That’s the mindset. I feel like you should never go into anything in life with a negative approach,” Barkley said Thursday. “I think a positive mindset is going to be a thing that helps you get through a lot of things in life, and that’s the mindset I’m going to have.
“That I know — not just that I think, I know — that I’m going to be able to come out and be a better player. That’s what I’m gonna challenge myself with.”
Barkley has drawn inspiration from veteran running back and future Hall-of-Famer, Adrian Peterson, who suffered a similar injury in 2011 as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
He returned the following year and became just the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season while winning league MVP honors.
“Someone really important to me would be AP,” Barkley said. “The day before surgery, I got to chat with AP for a very long time and I could see myself continuing to chat with him throughout the whole process.”
Peterson will be an important ally for Barkley, who understood that there are still more challenges ahead in his rehabilitation.
“I imagine there’s going to be some more dark places coming up,” he said. “Probably the darkest time for me was right when it happened. Obviously, it kind of brings you to tears. But you can’t cry about it too long.”
An added mental hurdle is being forced to watch the Giants try and hold onto their top spot in the NFC East and sneak into the playoffs despite a 4-7 record and a difficult matchup with the Seattle Seahawks waiting on Sunday.
“Just the fact that the game that I love and been playing since I was 7 is taking away from me a little bit, that definitely is challenging,” Barkley said. “But I’m just trying to be as supportive as I can. I love seeing my guys out there balling, doing their thing, especially the way we’re playing right now. So that definitely makes life a lot easier.
“Sundays are the toughest days. But the last three weeks, they’ve been pretty good,” Barkley said. “I’m a big believer in taking care of the things you can take care of, control the things you can control… I’m not Superman, I never viewed myself as Superman, I guess you could say. I wouldn’t say I put that on myself. I had an injury last year. I was able to overcome that and I have another injury this year, it’s another challenge that I have to be ready to face.”
In Barkley’s absence, fourth-year rusher Wayne Gallman has stepped up to provide a jolt to the Giants’ once-ineffective run game. He’s averaged four yards per carry this season and posted a career-high 94 yards with one touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in a Week 12 victory.
“Wayne Train, so proud of him,” he said with a smile.