The New York Giants’ slow and steady approach with Saquon Barkley looks as though it’s about to pay off.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that the star running back is “gearing up” to play Week 1 on Sunday evening (4:25 p.m. ET) against the Denver Broncos.
“This is as close as he’s ever been [during his rehabilitation] to being fully cleared,” Rapoport said.
Barkley has not seen game action since tearing his ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season against the Chicago Bears. He underwent surgery to repair the injury over a month after suffering it, which immediately put his status for the start of the 2021 season in jeopardy.
The Giants didn’t necessarily do much to limit the spread of speculation as both they and Barkley maintained throughout the summer that there was no official timeline for his return to the backfield. It wasn’t until Aug. 9 that he was removed from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and a majority of that work was on the side fields away from his teammates.
Barkley did not participate in live drills until Aug. 26 during joint practices with the New England Patriots ahead of the Giants’ final preseason game, but he did not participate in the last tuneup affair against Bill Belichick’s men.
On Thursday, the 24-year-old participated in his first full-pads, contact practice, which was the last hurdle for Barkley to clear before getting into a game.
“This whole process I’ve been a team player listening to the doctors, listening to the coaches, listening to the trainers, knowing that they have my best interest at heart,” Barkley said after that practice. “Whatever they feel that is best for me and best for the team, I’m willing to do.”
Now the Giants are poised to have a nearly 100% offense for their regular-season opener — a pivotal year for third-year quarterback Daniel Jones and general manager David Gettleman who both have plenty to prove. Their chances of success only increase with a healthy Barkley back in the mix.
“I guess I feel good. I’m taking it one day at a time,” Barkley said. “I’m just not even trying to think about, ‘Do I look like my old self?’ I’m a very confident player. I know whenever I’m able to get back out there — maybe it might be one quarter, maybe it might be one play — whatever the opportunity is, when I’m back out there, I know I’m going to be able to go out there and be who I am and play how I am.”