NORTH CALDWELL, N.J. – The Giants' first full-squad training camp practice is in nine days, but there is no timetable for when Saquon Barkley will be on the field.
"I don't know," the team's premier running back said this morning. "I've been asked a lot – I guess that's the theme of this summer is when I'm going to be back. But I don't have an answer, to be honest. Not trying to lead up to it or build something up. I don't have an answer. It's a fun process, but it's a tough process at the same time, so just got to continue to listen to my body, listen to the trainers, listen to the coaches and just take it day by day."
That process is Barkley's continued rehabilitation from the knee surgery he underwent last October after he tore his ACL in Week 2 in Chicago. He did say his knee "feels pretty good" and he is "trying to get one percent better each day and getting ready to report for camp."
But Barkley was fervently non-committal in a 7½-minute chat with reporters, saying "I don't know" when asked if he will be a full participant on day one. "I guess we'll see, right?"
How about his availability for the Sept. 14 regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos?
"I don't know. I guess we'll see," Barkley repeated. "Just taking it day by day and listening to my body. Whenever I'm able to get out there, make sure that I'm 110 percent not just for the safety and health of myself and my well-being, but just so I can go out there and compete at a high level, and show the world who Saquon is again."
How involved in on-field activities will coach Joe Judge permit him to be early in camp?
"That's not a conversation we've had yet," Barley said. "Like I've said before, I'm really blessed and fortunate to have a great team and a great staff who's going to listen to me and take it day by day, listen to my knee, and whenever that time comes, go at it 110 percent.
"Kind of got to play that by ear. When it comes to rehab, rehab is never a straight line, so just gotta play that by ear, listen to your body, listen to your knee and whatever your body is telling you, go with that."
View photos of Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Barkley was asked about his camp expectations.
"My expectations for myself this summer are to come out, continue to be a leader, continue to be supportive," he said. "Whatever I'm able to do, whatever I'm told to do, go at it 110 percent and eventually get back to playing the sport that I love."
Barkley spoke during a break from instructing and encouraging the approximately 200 campers in grades 1-8 who attended the Saquon Barkley Football ProCamp at West Essex High School. Though it was not an NFL setting, he was happy to be back on a football field, particularly since his rehabilitation has largely been an exercise – literally - in isolation.
"I chase around a three-year-old (his daughter, Jada), so she keeps me active," Barkley said. "My family keeps me active as a whole. But the isolation, that's kind of like the beginning of the process. I have some great teammates that have made some sacrifices just to be with me – Sterling (Shepard), (David) Sills, Daniel (Jones) coming in with me and getting the work in and working with me, sacrificing their workout and just working with me, so I'm really thankful for that. Just coming out and seeing these kids gives you a little boost of energy, gives you a boost of confidence, seeing their smiles, seeing the impact you still have on people. That goes a long way, so definitely needed and definitely thankful to ProCamp for allowing this to happen."
Barkley was clearly enjoying himself as he interacted with the youngsters in his camp.
"I'm a big kid at heart," he said. "We were talking about how much I would do, and I said I'm probably just going to go with the flow and probably my kid at heart will take over and just have fun. And it means a lot. I'm happy these kids came out. I want to thank the families and these kids for coming out, and I want to make sure I leave a lasting impression."
He can say the same about his brilliant work in a Giant uniform. The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the only player in franchise history to begin his career with two 1,000-yard rushing seasons, Barkley has much unfinished business he'd like to complete. His 2020 season consisted of 19 rushing attempts and six receptions.
Barkley's injury prompted him to think about his football mortality as he prepares for his fourth NFL season.
"The game's taken away from you for a long time - I haven't played since September 20, so that comes into play," Barkley said. "Being here definitely does help, but with time just throughout the rehab process and getting back and the gains that you make, that kind of comes back in play. Football can be taken from you at any point, especially at the position I play, so that's why when you get these opportunities, go at it 110 percent and put some smiles on these kids' faces."
Does rehab ever end?
"No, it doesn't," Barkley said. "As you continue to get better, the stuff gets easier, but you have to continue rehabbing. With the way I treat myself, I've always been rehabbing. Always try to focus on the little things, focus on the details and try to avoid these injuries. Just with the sport that I play, things can happen, so you just try to eliminate all those things that you can and just go out there with a smile on your face and just be blessed that you're able to play the sport that you love. If anything does happen again, it happens. That's my mindset. I know people have asked me whether I'm worried about this, that, even my close family members. For me, just go out and play the sport that I love and still treat myself like a pro and put the right things in my body and do the right things for my body to eliminate those things from happening."
View photos of the New York Giants' active 53-man roster as it currently stands.