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Saquon Barkley 'definitely encouraged' but no guarantees

SAQUON-BARKLEY

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – He is doing more in practice and feels better than he did a week ago, but Saquon Barkley is not ready to declare himself fit to play Sunday, when the Giants will face the Dolphins in Miami.

The Giants' star running back has missed the last two games because of a high ankle sprain he suffered in the waning moments of the Week 2 victory in Arizona.

"Each day it gets better," Barkley said Thursday afternoon following practice. "It's not a tough injury. Or it's a tough injury, I guess I should say. I'm just taking it one day at a time and just trying to improve each day.

"I'd definitely say I'm in a better spot than where I was last Thursday. So, definitely encouraged, but don't want to make any guarantees. Continuing to trust in my body and trust in the training staff and go from there."

Unlike last week, when he was limited to rehabbing and individual drills, Barkley has participated in full-team portions of practice this week. He's officially listed as limited in practice.

"Definitely able to do a lot more this week," he said. "Definitely can feel improvements, feel a lot better than what I was in this moment, in this spot, than I was last week. But just keep chipping away."

Does Barkley like his chances to suit up against the 3-1 Dolphins?

"Kind of similar to what I just said, continuing to just keep working, keep rehabbing, put my trust in the trainers and take it day by day," Barkley said.

Prior to practice, coach Brian Daboll said, "He did a good job (yesterday). We'll see how he does today, how it feels after going a little bit more. Get him out here on the practice field and see what happens."

Asked if Barkley is trending in the right direction, Daboll said, "We'll see how it goes today."

Without Barkley, their most dynamic offensive player, the Giants have lost their last two games. Two weeks ago tonight, they had just 11 rushing attempts, their lowest total in 34 years, and ran for 29 yards in a 30-12 loss in San Francisco. On Monday night, they lost to Seattle, 24-3, while running for 112 yards on 29 attempts. But quarterback Daniel Jones led the team with 66 yards, including a team-long 17-yarder. Running backs Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell combined for 39 yards on 14 carries, a 2.8-yard average.

Before he was injured, Barkley rushed for 114 yards and one touchdown on 29 attempts and caught nine passes for 41 yards and a score.

In 2022, Barkley rushed for a career-high 1,312 yards and was selected to his second Pro Bowl. The last two weeks, he's been a spectator.

"It sucks," he said. "As a competitor, you want to be out there, and you go back and look at film every game whether you play in it or you don't. You think, 'Is there anything else I could have done different if I was in this play or if I was here or there?' That's not any diss to Gary or Breida. Those guys have been doing a great job coming in and making plays for us. But as a player, you want to be out there, and I'll try my best.

"I would love to be out there. I feel like I can help. I feel like I can help us get back on track. I know there's some people out there that wouldn't agree with that, but that's what I believe in my mindset. I'm fighting, I'm trying to do everything I can in my power to get back and be there for my teammates."

It's an understatement to say Barkley dislikes being a spectator.

"I guess you get a different perspective of it, but it's not a perspective that you want," Barkley said. "You can get a different sense of what's going on. You really just can't do much. It's hard to be vocal, try to be the leader, try to, in those moments, pick guys up when you're not going through the fire with them, when you're not out there going to war with them.

"So, that's why I'm trying my best to get back out there. I'll be able to let my personality show and hopefully my playmaking ability and hopefully just have an impact being on the field and also carrying over to the vocal leadership role and just the leadership on the field also."

The Giants are a better team when Barkley is carrying the football. He believes the team can overcome its slow start and make a run at a second consecutive playoff berth. And Barkley wants to lead the charge.

"It's the NFL," Barley said. "You never expect it to go this way. Obviously, last year didn't go this way. We had a hot start (6-1). We started the first quarter of the season 1-3, not where we wanted to be. But you've got to weather the storm. That's the reality of the NFL. It's going to happen to every team. At some point, you're going to have adversity.

"I think we have a team that's built for adversity. I think we have the players and the leaders in this locker room to get us out of this funk. That's the only thing that's going to solve it, going out there and winning games. The reason why I think we are going to be able to do that is because of the system we have in place, the coaches that we have here and the players that we have in this locker room, and I feel like continue to trust in that and continue to lean on each other. That's going to be the way we get out of this."

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 5 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

*Micah McFadden was added to the Giants' injury report as a limited practice participant because of an ankle issue.

The injury report was otherwise unchanged. Three offensive linemen did not practice for the second straight day: tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring), center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder), and guard Shane Lemieux (groin). Joining McFadden as limited were running backs Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Gary Brightwell (ankle), wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee), tight end Daniel Bellinger (knee), tackle Evan Neal (hand/ankle), guard Marcus McKethan (knee), and linebacker Azeez Ojulari (hamstring).

Coming off a Monday night game, the Giants will not have a full pads practice this week.

"We are down some linemen," Daboll said. "So, we're trying to get out here and make sure we have a good practice, full speed, up-tempo, so just cutting a few things, adding a few other things. Just rearranging some of the things we're doing."

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