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Giants plan for Saquon Barkley injury scenarios


TEMPE, Ariz. – Saquon Barkley needed assistance to leave the field Sunday when the star running back suffered a sprained ankle late in the Giants' stirring 31-28 victory against the Arizona Cardinals, and players who spoke publicly Monday conceded they will be prepared to play without him when they face the 2-0 49ers on Thursday.

"I think obviously we'll miss him," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "He's a huge part of what we're doing. Guys will have to step up, and it won't be any one guy. It'll be everyone elevating their play and stepping up, and I'm confident we can do that. We have lots of guys who can step in and do different things and help out."

"I mean, it's tough," linebacker Bobby Okereke said. "(Defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) will always say he's our best defensive player because when he's on the field running the ball, we are on the sideline. Saquon is an incredible leader, this team is going to miss him, but we also have a 'next man up' mentality. Everybody has to in this league. We will do what we can to get prepared for this next game."

"I think he's doing alright," Jones said of his conversations with Barkley. "He's a mature guy. Obviously, he's disappointed and I feel for him on that, but he's going to work hard to get back. Yeah, he'll be back."

Coach Brian Daboll spoke to the media as Barkley was undergoing further examination Monday morning in Tempe.

"Whatever it is, we'll have a plan ready to go," Daboll said. "If he can play, he can play and if he can't, then we'll have the other guys prepared and ready to go."

The Giants have three other running backs on their roster in veteran Matt Breida, third-year pro Gary Brightwell and rookie Eric Gray, who has yet to play an offensive snap.

"I think all the running backs that we have on the roster, that's why they are on the roster, because we are confident in them," Daboll said.

As he so often is, Barkley was one of the Giants' primary catalysts as they overcame a 28-7 third-quarter deficit to earn their first victory of the season. He scored touchdowns on a one-yard run and a nine-yard reception and led the team in both rushing (63 yards) and receiving (six catches, tying him with tight end Darren Waller).

Last year, Barkley did not miss a game due to injury for the first time since his 2018 Rookie of the Year season and helped lead the Giants to the playoffs with a career-high 1,312 rushing yards.

But with 1:08 remaining yesterday, the Giants were driving for the game-winning field goal when Barkley's right lower leg bent awkwardly under a pileup after a two-yard gain. He was helped off the field and when he reached the Giants' bench, slammed his helmet to the ground in frustration.

This is the latest in Barkley's painful litany of injuries, which includes an ankle in 2019 and 2021 and a torn ACL that cost him virtually the entire 2020 season. Now he will miss an undetermined amount of time.

"Obviously, having him with us, that's what we want, but things happen," safety Xavier McKinney said. "It's a part of the NFL. Obviously, we don't want to see guys get injured, but it's a part of it, unfortunately. We've just got to push through it. Part of an NFL season is pushing through adversity whenever you get it, so that's what we'll be looking to do."

The Giants still have numerous talented ballhandlers, including wide receivers Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins and Jalin Hyatt, plus Waller, who said Barkley's absence won't necessarily put more pressure on the players to produce in the passing game.

"I still think it requires a healthy level of balance with any offense," Waller said. "I believe in Breida, G.B. (Brightwell), guys like that that are going to step up. E.G., (Gray). Guys that have made plays since April, that are going to come in and offer that. You can't just drop back every time. You've got to have some level of balance, and I believe in those guys to hold up their end of the bargain. Whatever's required of us in the passing game, we'll be willing to do."

Jones expressed confidence the offense will operate at a high level of efficiency.

"I think we'll have things in the game plan and certain ways to get guys in different spots and use their skillsets," Jones said. "So, my job is the same, it's to execute and to give the playmakers the ball in space and let them do their thing. I don't think it changes my mindset or how I need to do my job or execute the offense."

Breida is expected to get most of the rushing attempts. He is a seven-year veteran and second-year Giant who is in his third season in the offensive system, having played for the Buffalo Bills in 2021 when Daboll was their offensive coordinator. Ironically, his first three seasons and most of his career carries were with San Francisco from 2017-19. Breida has played in 83 regular-season games with 20 starts and has 523 rushing attempts for 2,515 yards and eight touchdowns, plus 104 receptions for 844 yards and six scores.

"I've been with Matt for quite some time," Daboll said. "He knows our system; he's prepared every week as if he was the starter and that's what they all need to do. I'd say all three of the guys work really hard and prepare as if they are going to play an entire game."

"He's extremely dependable," Jones said of Breida. "He's an explosive runner, he's got the speed, the breakaway speed, and he's just always doing the right thing. Just a guy you can count on to step up and play well. Last year he played really well and then this year in spots he's played well, so a guy you can definitely count on."

In their immediate future, the Giants must do exactly that.

View photos from the Giants' 31-28 comeback victory over the Cardinals in Glendale.