Giants' Saquon Barkley leaves much mystery about status heading into NFL training camp

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Saquon Barkley on field with ball in blue jersey
Saquon Barkley on field with ball in blue jersey

NORTH CALDWELL, N.J. – Saquon Barkley can’t do much these days without feeling the glare from everyone’s eyes on his surgically repaired right knee. And that’s what everyone was staring at when he spent his Monday morning running around a football field with 200 kids.

So it was good that he looked just fine jogging around at the Saquon Barkley Youth Pro Camp at West Essex High School. But that’s still a long way away from an NFL field.

And the truth is, with the first practice of training camp just nine days away, even Barkley doesn’t seem to know for sure when he’ll really be back.

“I’ve been asked a lot. I guess that’s what the theme of the summer is going to be: When will I be back?” Barkley said. “But no, I don’t have an answer, to be honest. I’m not trying to build something up. I don’t have the answer. I’ve just got to listen to my body, listen to the trainers, listen to the coaches and just take it day by day.”

That’s been the standard answer all spring for the Giants’ 24-year-old running back as he’s continued to rehab from the torn ACL he suffered 10 months ago, and he’s not wavering from it now. It seems likely at this point that he’ll open camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list with the Giants determined to take a cautious approach. And it’s also a good bet that he won’t appear in any preseason games.

But Barkley, who said his knee “feels pretty good,” said he hasn’t spoken with Giants head coach Joe Judge yet about a training camp plan. He also cautioned that “rehab’s never a straight line,” which only adds to the mystery of when he’ll be ready. He won’t rule out being a full participant in the Giants’ first summer practice, as unlikely as that is. But he also wouldn’t commit to being ready for the season opener on Sept. 12.

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll see,” Barkley said. “I’m just taking it day by day, listening to my body. Whenever I’m able to get out there, make sure that I’m 110 percent, not just for the safety and health of myself, but so I can go out there and compete at a high level and show the world that Saquon is Saquon.”

That does seem to be the shared goal with the Giants and Barkley, to make sure he is completely healthy and ready whenever he returns. Both are scarred by the fact that his last two years have been mostly ruined by injuries – a badly sprained ankle that limited him in 2019 and the torn ACL he suffered in Week 2 last year.

The Giants’ goal is to have him for the long haul, not to rush him back unnecessarily for an early-season game. And Barkley’s goal is to be strong enough, physically and mentally, to return looking like the player he was as a rookie, playing with no fear.

“Just with the sport that I play, things can happen,” he said. “I try to eliminate all those things if I can. But if anything does happen again, it happens. That’s my mindset. I know people have asked me, ‘Am I worried about this?’ For me, just go out there and play the sport that I love, treat myself like a pro and do the right things with my body to eliminate those things from happening.”

But how much more rehab will that take before he can play, or before he can even practice?

“Like I’ve said before, I’m very blessed and fortunate to have a great team, great staff that’s going to listen to me and take it day by day and listen to my knee,” Barkley said. “Whenever that time comes, I’ll go at it 110 percent.”