New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley was named one of three finalists for the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award on Wednesday morning, joining Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith and San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey.
The 2022-23 season was the first time that Barkley appeared in at least 16 games for the Giants since his rookie season in 2018, when he was drafted second overall out of Penn State. He had been hampered by the injury bug since, including a high-ankle sprain that held him out three games in 2019, a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, and an ankle injury that held him out for four games in 2021.
Once one of the most explosive playmakers in the game, Barkley looked tentative and uneasy on that right leg that was surgically repaired in 2021, posting just 593 with two touchdowns across 13 games.
Fully healthy in 2022, the 25-year-old returned to the form that made him an All-Pro and NFL Rookie of the Year five seasons ago.
In 16 games under head coach Brian Daboll, Barkley rushed for a career-high 1,312 yards on 4.4 yards per carry to go with 57 receptions for 338 additional yards. He posted four 100-yard- rushing games, headlined by an 18-rush, 164-yard effort in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans.
“You’re like, ‘That’s the guy I know. That’s the guy who always was there,'” Barkley said earlier this season. “He was there last year to be completely honest; I just had a hard time finding a way to bring him out. That’s coming with a mental disconnect. I lost confidence and it’s human nature. That happens. You’re going to have your ups and downs in life, but you got to find a way not to waiver and continue to trust yourself, continue to trust the process, and just find belief in yourself again.”