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Notebook: Saquon Barkley talks return to Chicago; Dexter Lawrence to COVID list

SAQUON-BARKLEY

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley has no interest in revisiting an unpleasant moment from his recent past or revising his plan for his short-term future.

The Giants' running back downplayed his return this weekend to the site of his most serious injury and dismissed the notion that he should not play in the team's final two games, including Sunday against the Bears in Chicago.

It was in Soldier Field on Sept. 20, 2020, that Barkley tore his anterior cruciate ligament and sustained other damage in his right knee, ending his season after just 25 touches of the ball. Barkley will step on that fateful field for the first time when the Giants try to begin the new calendar year with a victory.

"I try not to think about it, but it happened," Barkley said to reporters Wednesday on a Zoom call. "I really don't try to think about it. I guess probably more so last year, but this is a whole different season."

"I'm not thinking like, 'I hate the field' (after a reporter's question included those words). I'm excited that I'm healthy enough to be able to go out there and be able to play another game. You never know when these opportunities are going to be taken away from you. That's my whole mindset is cherish these last two games that we have and go out there and try to finish on a high note."

He can't value the games against Chicago and Washington if he's not playing in them. The idea of keeping him off the field these last two weeks has been debated outside of 1925 Giants Drive.

Barkley missed four games with an ankle injury earlier this season. He has averaged 3.5 yards a carry and rushed for 461 yards and averaged 6.4 yards on 38 receptions. Today, a 27-word question was posed to him about whether it was better for his health and the team's 2022 prospects to take off the last two games.

His one-word answer: "no."

Judge shares that mindset.

"In terms of shutting him down for the year, that's something that our medical team has not approached me about," Judge said Monday, the day after Barkley totaled 28 yards from scrimmage in the Giants' loss in Philadelphia. "At this moment, there wouldn't be any medical reason, at least that they have brought to me, about shutting him down. Anytime we have those conversations, that's for a player's immediate and long-term health consideration."

"I know Saquon has been battling through a number of things this year. Came off a traumatic injury last year – that's a tough recovery. He's dealt with a number of other things, as well. The ankle in the Dallas game, that's really been lingering throughout the year. I see this guy go through a lot of things preparation-wise in the week, treatment-wise, and extra recovery-wise trying to get his body back to it. I've seen a lot of flashes lately that this guy has really had some good games for us in previous weeks, and he's out there battling and playing really hard and going through some tough circumstances. He's out there, he's playing. He's dinged up in a lot of ways, as most of the players in the NFL are this time of year. No one's really 100 percent, but he's battling through a lot of things for us. In terms of the long-term question for the rest of the year, no one on our medical staff has talked to me about anything related to that at this point."

It is widely expected Barkley will return for his fifth Giants season in 2022, but like life, the NFL has no guarantees. He was asked if he ever thinks "this possibly could be your last time or two in a Giants uniform?"

"No, I don't," he said. "I can't control those things. I can't control those. I can't have that thought process. My thought process is to come in every single day and try to be the leader I can be for the team and try to get better physically, mentally and all the above. With these last two games, especially coming up with Chicago, try to finish on a high note and play for each other."

*The Giants' roster churn continued, most of it due to COVID-19.

Three players were activated from the Reserve/COVID list: wide receiver John Ross and defensive backs Adoree' Jackson and Keion Crossen. Ross was placed on the list Dec. 15, Jackson on the 16th and Crossen on the 20th. Jackson missed the last four games, two with a quad injury and two with COVID. Ross sat out the last two and Crossen did not play in Philadelphia on Sunday.

"Keion's back in the building with us now," Judge said. "He's already started ramping up with the trainers. Adoree's back and he started ramping up with the trainers, as well. Ross is also getting back in the building and he'll be with the trainers, as well. All three of those guys are in the ramp-up period. Today being a lighter day for us on the field on a Wednesday, they should all have the opportunity to build in and see if we can get them to the game."

*Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence II was added to the COVID reserve list and Judge expects he will be unavailable to play in Chicago.

"It looks like he's out for Sunday," Judge said. "It looks like with the timeline and that five-day deal; it looks like he's out for Sunday. I'll have to finalize it and clarify it with the trainers, but the conversation I had this morning with them, that's what it indicates."

*Judge is somewhat more hopeful about having the services of tackle Nate Solder, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and defensive back Julian Love. They remain on the COVID reserve list and were absent today.

"All three of those guys would have the ability under the new protocols or guidelines to play in the game if their symptoms improve and they're able to play physically." Judge said. "Timetable-wise, all three would be able to play."

*Cornerback Darnay Holmes has been on injured reserve since Nov. 30 with injured ribs and his season might be finished.

"He's not going to play this week for us," Judge said. "There's a small outside shot for next week."

*Judge is not ready to say publicly if Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm will start at quarterback against the Bears.

"We'll prepare both guys, similar to last week," Judge said. "We'll prepare both guys, both guys will have their share of the load this week in practice as far as sharing some reps. I would expect to see both guys play."

*The Giants conducted a walkthrough today, so practice participation on their injury report was a projection.

The following players did not practice: Barkley (ankle), running back Gary Brightwell (neck), wide receivers Kadarius Toney (shoulder) and Collin Johnson (ankle), tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle), center Billy Price (personal), defensive linemen Austin Johnson (foot) and Raymond Johnson III (illness), and kicker Graham Gano (illness).

Those limited in practice were Ross, Jackson, Crossen, offensive lineman Ben Bredeson (ankle) and fullback Cullen Gillaspia (shin).

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