Giants' Saquon Barkley returns to practice, but may not play until Week 1

ByJordan Raanan via ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. --New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley returned to practice Wednesday after being sidelined the previous eight days with a hamstring injury. He is still not expected to play Friday against the New York Jets in their third -- and perhaps most important -- preseason game of the summer, a source told ESPN.

Barkley said he felt "really good" and strong in his first practice after tweaking his hamstring last Monday. He missed the Giants' preseason game against the Detroit Lions on Friday.

The No. 2 pick in this year's draft didn't do a lot at Wednesday's practice, but it was more than in previous days. He participated in individual drills, ran a few routes and even took a rep during a live 7-on-7 period. It further validated the belief that, barring a setback, he should be close to 100 percent for the Sept. 9 opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Well he practiced [Wednesday] as you saw. Getting him back out there," coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's coming back from his tweak."

Shurmur didn't disclose his intention for Barkley the remainder of the preseason, only offering his standard "we'll see." The Giants play the Jets this week and the New England Patriots next Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.

It's likely Barkley doesn't see another preseason snap this summer. In that case, he will enter the regular season with just six preseason plays under his belt. Those came two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, and included a 39-yard run on his first carry.

"Would I feel comfortable Week 1 playing? Yeah," said Barkley, who also noted he didn't practice much at Penn State as part of the coaching staff's plan to keep him fresh and healthy. "Obviously I would love to be out there and play as quickly as I possibly can. But that's part of the game. ... When I'm able to play I have to be 100 percent ready."

Barkley insists his hamstring feels fine. He's just following the plan set forth by the Giants training staff that seems to have its eyes on the opener.

Shurmur continues to say they are going to play it "smart" with the rookie running back and all their injured players. That does appear to be the case with Barkley.

"Personally, the way I feel and my body feels, I'll be honest, I feel good," he said. "I feel pretty good. I've been moving really well. But that is what the trainers get paid for. They tell me stories all the time and tell me to talk to other guys, even guys like [Odell Beckham Jr.], who hurt their hamstring before. Because when you feel 100 percent, that is when you give it that push and, boom, it happens again and it's a setback.

"I don't want any setbacks at all. That's why I've just been trying to be a team player there. Just listen and follow instructions. I know they have a great game plan set out for me. When they feel I'm ready, that is when I'll be ready."

It may not be until Week 1. That could be the first time he will be on the field in a game with Beckham, who has not played in a preseason game this summer. Beckham is looking for a new contract and is returning from a broken ankle suffered last year. He was held out of the Giants' first two preseason games this summer.

Shurmur was non-committal about Beckham's status for Friday night's preseason game against the Jets as well.

"We're trying to be smart with it," Shurmur said. "We'll see. He's gotten so much work behind the scenes. We'll just have to see how it plays out."

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