EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley currently engages in on-field activity far from the main action, limited to working out with teammates who are also ineligible to practice while they reside on reserve lists. Barkley, continuing his rehabilitation from knee surgery last Oct. 30, is one of six players on the physically unable to perform/active list.
Until Barkley rejoins his teammates in the offensive huddle, most of his reps with the first-team offense will be taken by six-year veteran Devontae Booker, who joined the team as a free agent in March. Booker has 2,482 yards from scrimmage in 77 career games, and Joe Judge does not consider him as a player merely holding Barkley's spot until the former Rookie of the Year returns.
"I think Devontae has to worry about himself and not worry about where anybody else is," Judge said before today's training camp practice, his first in-person news conference in about 17 months. "We're going to look to get contributions from all of our players, no matter who is available on the roster. Again, whoever comes to a game for us is going to play, alright? We're not traveling guys to sit there and watch the game."
Booker spent four seasons in Denver before playing the 2020 season for the Las Vegas Raiders, for whom he rushed for 423 yards and three touchdowns and caught 17 passes.
"I'm pleased with the progress he's made through spring," Judge said. "Obviously, for any new player – rookies, free agents, it doesn't matter – there's elements of the program they have to get used to. Whether it's a little bit of something different we do on operation, how we practice, the system of the scheme, communication, that all adds up right there. But I'm confident in all our players. He's worked hard to this point and now we have to see him every day make progress in our training camp."
That will remain true even after Barkley returns.
View photos from the first practice of Giants training camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
*While answering a question about how COVID protocols affect the team daily, Judge referenced linebacker Blake Martinez, the team's tackle leader last season who was yesterday placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
"For the most part, it doesn't alter much, it really doesn't," Judge said. "Obviously, if a guy triggers and he's in some kind of protocol, they can't be with us in meetings, they go in through Zoom. That's still a little bit funky. Blake Martinez is outside the building right now. You sit in the linebacker meeting and (linebackers coach] Kevin Sherrer's talking and it's kind of like the voice of Oz coming back over the speaker when Blake is answering questions. So, it's a little bit different in that regard."
Like all NFL teams, the Giants are accustomed to working under the NFL protocols and mandates.
"I think our team is pretty good at changing and adjusting on the fly," Judge said. "It's something we dealt with last year to a degree. We've been in Zoom completely. Now, we're kind of almost integrating some in Zoom and some in person. Hopefully, we can get everyone in person full-time as much as we can, but in terms of on the field, there's protocols that players have to follow. If you're not vaccinated or fully through the process yet of being vaccinated, you've got to wear that Oakley mouth shield over your helmet. When they take their helmets off, they've got to put masks on. These are just part of the protocols.
"We've got a number of guys who are waiting to be fully cleared. I know it'll be easier for them when they get through that process completely, but for right now, we all understand it is what it is. We've got rules and we talk as a team, you have choices. The league and union afford you the choice of being vaccinated or unvaccinated. Reality is, it's a lot easier to go ahead and live life as a professional player if you're vaccinated. If you're not vaccinated, you just have to follow all the protocols associated with it and it's our job as a team to enforce those and educate our players along the way."
*The Giants' first-round draft choice, wide receiver Kadarius Toney, was removed for the Reserve/COVID list yesterday.
"He's going to ramp up with our trainers," Judge said. "We'll see where he is physically before we bring him back completely. We have a number of guys in that situation coming off that COVID list and that's something that we dealt with last year. Really, we learned a lot last year from the guys coming off. Even when a guy comes off and is asymptomatic and they feel like when they get back to the field they're ramped up, they're ready to go, there's a lot of energy and excitement. They get out there and the truth is when you've been in a position where you've basically isolated and you're not working out for a week, 10 days, whatever it may be, that just goes ahead and sets you back in your training. We've got to make sure our players are healthy when we get there, that's why we do a conditioning test. It's not to see how far we can push our team, it's to see are these guys physically ready to go out there and perform in what we need them to do on the field."
*Does Judge expect to have 100% of his players vaccinated at some point?
"I can't answer that question," Judge said. "Look, we have a lot of guys on our team who will make individual choices. Our job is to educate them and, again, whatever choice they make, we just make sure that they're doing what's right for the team by following the protocols."
*The players will work in helmets and shells before they practice in full pads.
"There's a ramp-up period, so we really won't be in pads until next Tuesday," Judge said. "It'll be helmets and shorts for the next couple of days, we'll go into shells Friday and Saturday, shells the following Monday and then we'll be in pads. We'll be in pads as much as we can be, even when it's not a live contact day. Just get used to wearing the equipment, moving around, getting our players used to being out there."
*Judge gave a collective thumbs up to the players after their performance in yesterday's conditioning test.
"I'm pleased with the team's progress over the summer," Judge said. "Everyone passed it. We've got a lot of guys, you can tell, who have worked extremely hard over the summer. All that it just to show that they have the opportunity to get on the field and work. From this point forward, obviously, we'll start playing football and we'll see today as we build in conditioning."
*Running back Sandro Platzgummer passed his physical, was removed from the reserve/non-football injury list and was on the field for today's opening camp practice.