EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley participated in less than half of the Giants' offensive plays Sunday, but that doesn't mean he's easing his way into a more prominent role a year after tearing his right ACL.
After just three days off, Barkley and the Giants will return to the field Thursday night against the Washington Football Team.
"I don't think the schedule is ideal for coming back off a major knee injury to have two games back-to-back, but that's what it is," Barkley said today. "That's what's in front of me and that's the challenge I have to face. To the question of my workload and how much can I handle, it's easier for me to stay up here and say, 'I don't know, just listen to the coaches.' When you're in the game and your adrenaline's going and you start getting a rhythm and you start feeling yourself again, that can go from less reps or more reps, I don't know, to be honest. I'm not in that decision, I don't make that decision, I'm just playing my role by showing up on Thursday and the plays that I do get, try to help my team to the best of my capability."
How will he know if he's ready play a second game in five days?
"When I'm out there, I feel like the warming up and all that stuff would definitely indicate it," Barkley said. "Because in here, you're not really running full speed just with the nature of the short week. Just keep the communication with doctors and the trainers and listen to them. Definitely when I'm able to start moving around a little bit more, see how my body feels and see how my body reacts."
Barkley continues to scrape off the rust after his long hiatus. He had surgery last Oct. 30, practiced on a limited basis for the first time on Aug. 9 and did not play in any of the Giants' three preseason games.
In the season-opening 27-13 loss to Denver, Barkley was on the field for 29 of 61 offensive snaps. He had 10 rushing attempts for 26 yards and gained one yard on his only reception.
When he totaled 3,469 yards from scrimmage in his first two seasons, Barkley averaged 21.4 touches a game (16.5 carries and 4.9 five receptions). The Giants don't want Barkley shouldering such a heavy load until they evaluate how his knee responds to the early tests. But building him up to a larger role might slow the process of reaching peak condition and establishing a rhythm during games.
"That's hard, it is hard, but that's part of it," Barkley said. "Especially coming in off an injury and not playing for a little bit, but like I said before, I've preached multiple times, we have a great organization here and great coaching staff that is looking out for my best interest at heart. Obviously, I want to go out there and try to be that 'do it all' guy and help the team win. But it's the nature of what I'm coming off of. The way I get back into the flow of that is just by taking the plays that I get and trying to capitalize as much as I can and staying locked in on the sideline when I'm not in, mentally and physically. Every time I do get in, go back to just trying to make those plays."
View photos of Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Despite the limitations, the Giants were pleased with the contributions they got from Barkley, who had not played since last Sept. 20 in Chicago.
"It was good having him out there, obviously," coach Joe Judge said yesterday. "The emphasis was really getting this guy out there, getting his feet wet. He hasn't had the opportunity to play in the preseason. Obviously, he hasn't played since last year when the injury happened, so the focus for us was really getting him out there, letting him get going, getting in sync of playing in the game. Obviously, it was the first time he was truly under a live fire with fully getting tackled and all that stuff from all different angles, so it was good and encouraging to see him come out of there. I thought he responded well. For all accounts right now, he came out of the game good for us. In terms of Thursday, we'll see what the game plan brings as we move on forward. I didn't see any setbacks from anything, and I didn't get any reports on anything as far as medically with him."
When Barkley spoke to reporters today, the first question he fielded was, "how you feeling?"
"How I'm feeling?" Barkley repeated. "I'm feeling pretty good. It felt good to get out there on Sunday. Obviously, a short week. Just trying to get my body back and get ready for Thursday night.
"I haven't gotten tackled in a whole year or played in a football game in a whole year. Obviously, I didn't play the full game. I probably played like 25 to 30 snaps, but there's always going to be some soreness. Definitely a quick turn around this week, but that's why I've got to be a pro and get my body ready and take care of my body."
In his first two seasons, which included winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2018, Barkley had nine runs of 50 or more yards, far more than anyone else in that span. Against Denver, his longest run was five yards.
But Barkley insists that is not due to physical limitations.
"My explosiveness to me is not a problem," he said. "I feel like it's all there still. I didn't really give myself the opportunity or had an opportunity to break a long one, so I guess I couldn't show that. Just got to stick with the game plan, stick with the runs, take the dirty runs. When I get the opportunity to make a big play, make a big play. That's something I wrote down in my notes this week is obviously with coming back and knocking the rust off and getting the feel back of the game, it's breaking tackles, getting back to what I do best and find a way to be productive and help the team."
The Giants will be very happy if he does exactly that.
*Three Giants players did not practice today, including tight end Evan Engram (calf), left guard Shane Lemieux (knee) and linebacker Cam Brown (hamstring). Saquon Barkley (knee) was limited.
Engram was inactive vs. Denver and Judge was asked if there's a chance the Pro Bowl tight end will suit up in Washington.
"I hope so," Judge said. "I know he's been pushing. He had a real good day of rehab the other day, moving along. He's making a lot of jumps in terms of how he's working. We'll see where he is today physically and reevaluate that probably tomorrow based on how today goes, and we'll see if he can get ready for Thursday."