The last time a touted Giants rookie missed time in the preseason with a hamstring issue, it turned out pretty well for him and the team. His name? Odell Beckham Jr.
Four years later, Saquon Barkley is following a similar path – just likely a shorter one.
The second overall draft pick has been sidelined since he tweaked his hamstring while stretching out for a long reception in practice on Monday, Aug. 13. Later that day, the team left for a week of joint practices in Detroit leading up to their preseason game. Barkley made the trip but did not participate in practice, something he has been unable to do until today. The running back out of Penn State was cleared and returned to individual drills on Wednesday.
"It felt good," Barkley said. "It felt good to actually participate in indy's (individual drills) and a little bit in practice drills. Like I said, been feeling really good, feeling strong, continue to strengthen it. The strength and the trainers have been doing a great job with me, conditioning me a little bit over there too, making sure I'm continuing to get ready for the game or the next time I'm able to play. Just felt great to be back out there."
The clearance came two days before Friday night's preseason game against the Jets and less than three weeks before the season opener on Sept. 9 against Jacksonville. While the rookie is missing "some valuable time" in the words of quarterback Eli Manning, the latter is obviously the more pressing date.
Coach Pat Shurmur was asked after practice about the importance of getting him into another preseason game. "We'll see," he said.
Whether or not that happens, Barkley is used to this type of practice schedule. In college, he did not "take crazy loads" in practice and instead worked on his own conditioning.
"So it's kind of similar to me," said Barkley, who had a 39-yard run on his first snap in the preseason opener. "So I guess that kind of helped me prepare for moments like this."
But the NFL isn't the NCAA. The NFC East isn't the Big Ten.
"Obviously I would love to be out there and to play as quickly as I can, but that's part of the game," Barkley said. "Injuries are a part of the game. That's even in the role or position I am right now. There's some guys that don't take as much reps as they would like and still have to go out there every single week and produce. I have to take that mindset and when my time is called and when I'm able to play, I need to be 100 percent ready."
In 2014, Beckham dealt with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss more time than Barkley is expected to this time around. Beckham sat out the entire five-game preseason slate (the Giants played in the Hall of Fame Game that year) and the first four weeks of the regular season. The 12th overall pick out of LSU finally made his much-anticipated debut in Week 5 at home against Atlanta and caught a touchdown in his first game. Then he was off the races.
Beckham had a rookie season for the ages, catching 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games.
Tom Coughlin did not exactly expound on Beckham's injury back then, and neither did Shurmur on Barkley's today.
"Well, he practiced today, so he's getting back out there," Shurmur said. "He's coming back from his tweak."
Shurmur reiterated the team is going to be smart with the Paul Hornung Award winner, which recognizes college football's most versatile player. Beckham has the same trophy in his case from 2013.
"Personally, the way I feel, my body feels, I'll be honest, I feel good, feel pretty good," Barkley said. "I've been moving pretty well, but that's what the trainers get paid for. They tell me stories all the time and I talk to other guys, even guys like O (Beckham Jr.) that hurt their hamstring before. It's when you feel 100 percent and that's when you give it that push, boom, and it happens again as a setback. I don't want any setbacks at all, so that's why I've been trying to be a team player there. Just listen and follow the instructions and I know they have a great game plan set out for me and when it's time for me and when they feel I'm ready, that's when I'll be ready."