EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley has had enough of rehabilitating injuries when he should be running the football.
For the third time in as many seasons, the Giants' back has been forced off the field with a lower body ailment. This time, it's a sprained left ankle, which he suffered in the 44-20 loss on Sunday in Dallas. Last year, a torn ACL in his right knee cost him the final 14+ games of the season. And in 2019, he missed three games after spraining his ankle in Week 3 at Tampa Bay.
"I'll be honest, it's frustrating," Barkley said today. "It doesn't make sense why it's happening, but obviously when you get hurt you have those one or two days when it's an ankle sprain. Obviously, when it's a knee injury, it's probably a little longer. You have those days to reflect and feel bad for yourself and have that 'why me?' mentality.
"But you can't keep that mindset. Having that mindset, you're not going to get anywhere with it. You've just got to look on the brighter side. Everything happens for a reason. This could slow me down to help me out in other ways to get myself ready and whenever I'm going to get back on the field, just get back to playing the sport that I love and to get back to contributing to help the team."
Barkley did not say if he has a target date for his return. He has not practiced this week and almost certainly won't play when the Giants host the Los Angeles Rams in three days. Is it realistic to expect he might return on Oct. 24 against the Carolina Panthers?
"I don't plan to put any expectations on the day or the game that I'm going to come back," Barkley said. "I'm just going to listen to my body, listen to the trainers and take it day by day. Whenever I'm able to get back out there, I'll be grateful again and take advantage of it."
Responding to another question, Barkley said, "I'm taking it day by day. Just listening to the trainers, just going to attack the rehab process. Whenever I'll be able to get back out there on the field, I'll go out there and try to contribute."
Barkley had just started to play like the back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons – the first Giants player ever to do that – and was selected NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018. He totaled 126 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns – on a 54-yard reception and the overtime game-winner on a six-yard run - in the Giants' victory in New Orleans on Oct. 3.
His season totals include 195 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 54 carries and 14 receptions for 130 yards. Barkley has scored a team-high three touchdowns.
He won't add to that total this week after his foot landed on Cowboys Cornerback Jourdan Lewis and his ankle rolled.
"I can't be mad at Jourdan Lewis," Barkley said. "Actually, Jourdan reached out to me and I guess some people were saying that it might have been intentional. I just happened to land on his ankle. If it was a second later or different, he could have landed on my foot and it could have been his ankle. People could have looked at me and made it seem like that I did it on purpose, so no. I've played Jourdan in college. I've played him since I've been in the NFL. He's not that type of guy. He's a heck of a player. So, me being mad at myself, that's the only thing that I could be right there – mad at myself, mad at the world, mad at everybody. You just got hurt again. You know you're going to be out. For how long, you don't know, so you're frustrated."
Barkley was able to walk unaided to the Giants' bench, where he was examined by the Giants' medical staff. When he was alone for a few moments, he demonstrated his disappointment by slapping his thighs.
"What would go through your guys' minds if you just rehabbed for 10 or 11 months to get back on the field and then you got hurt by rolling your ankle by stepping on someone else's foot?" Barkley asked reporters. "You're going to be frustrated. You're going to be exhausted. You're human. I'm human. So obviously, you have those thoughts and those negative thoughts creep in.
"But like I said, you have a day or two to reflect and have that 'why me?' mentality, but it's not going to get you anywhere. Looking back on it and the way that I reacted, or I acted on the sideline, I was kind of disappointed in myself. But like I said, I'm human and I feel, I care about this sport a lot. I care about this game a lot. I care about my teammates a lot. That's another reason why I'm frustrated that I feel like I'm letting them down. Yeah, I guess just to sum it up, I was frustrated. I was angry at myself. Now, I'm just ready to go back to work and continue to get better."
Barkley was replaced in the Giants' backfield by Devontae Booker, who joined the team as a free agent in March. Booker scored both of the Giants' touchdowns in Dallas, on a one-yard run and a three-yard reception. In addition to the six-year veteran, the Giants have Eli Penny and rookie Gary Brightwell in their backfield. Cullen Gillaspia is a fullback, but he has played only one offensive snap.
In an 81-game career that includes seven starts, Booker has rushed for 1,590 yards, caught 128 passes and scored 12 touchdowns. Now he is the Giants' lead runner until Barkley returns to the field.
"Really, I just want to be out there and help this team win," Booker said. "There's no way else we can put it. We've been losing from the beginning, we went 0-3, won against New Orleans, lost last week, so it's up and down. Really at this point, we just, everybody as a whole, want to win. Just me being out there doing what I need to do, running and pass catching and stuff like that, pass blocking. All the stuff on my end would help the team win.
"Even if (Saquon) wasn't in this situation right now, I would go out there and be prepared for my opportunities and help do whatever I can to help this team win."
Barkley couldn't have said it better.
View photos of Giants running back Saquon Barkley's time with the New York Giants.