Judge says Barkley must have contact to play in opener

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New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs through a drill during a joint NFL football training camp practice with the Cleveland Browns Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Star running back Saquon Barkley needs to be in some live contact drills if is to play in the New York Giants' season opener in less than three weeks, coach Joe Judge said.

Barkley, who had a major knee injury early last season, has not practiced at full speed since training camp late last month. He was excused from a workout on Wednesday as New York held the first of two joint practices with the New England Patriots.

He is expected back with the team on Thursday, but it is looking less likely he will be ready for the NFL season opener against Denver on Sept. 12 at MetLife Stadium. Barkley is expected to wear a non-contact red jersey in any drill he participates, Judge said

“I think every player has to have physical contact and experience the hits they’re going to take in a game before it becomes live, full speed in the regular season,” Judge said. “The reality is, the speed of the game increases from preseason to regular season to postseason. That’s just what happens. For us to put a player on the field without preparing him either through practice or preseason games without contact, we’re putting that player in danger and at a disservice.”

Judge said the Broncos, Washington and Atlanta aren't going to give Barkley a break in any of the first three games because he had reconstructive surgery on his right knee.

“They’re trying to hit our players as hard as they can, as we are to them, make good form tackles and end a play,” Judge said. "So, the best thing you can do for your players is prepare them for what they’re going to see by putting them in controlled situations, experience the technique, let your body get used to the contact as close, and collisions that are going to happen in a game, and then build on that as it goes to more 11-on-11 situations.”

Barkley passed his physical and returned to practice last week, but his workload has been limited. He was kept out of drills when the Giants held joint practices with Cleveland last week.

Judge and his medical staff spoke for an hour about Barkley last week.

“The most important part is for him to get out here and get football movement, reaction on movement against an opponent. He hasn’t seen seven on seven, yet. He hasn’t seen 11 on 11, yet. These things we have to build up with him," Judge said.

Judge said Barkley’s absence Wednesday was not health related, calling it personal. He told the media to ask the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year about it.

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