New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley takes next step in recovery, completes first contact practice

ByJordan Raanan ESPN logo
Thursday, September 2, 2021

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay participated in a padded practice Thursday, and Barkley took some contact seemingly without incident for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee 11 months ago.

It was the latest step in Barkley's progression and a mandatory one before he gets into a game, according to coach Joe Judge. The Giants open the season Sept. 12 against the Denver Broncos.

"We did a normal practice safely, and just talked to the guys and [they] gave me some good shots," Barkley said afterward. "But it's [about] route running and running routes just to get me back in the flow of things, so I guess you could say yes [I took my first hit].

"But [Thursday] felt good at practice and practicing with everyone on the team. Think that was definitely needed. Just grateful to be out there and just getting ready for the season."

Barkley will have to get through another fully padded practice next week before likely getting cleared by doctors. The Giants don't practice again until Monday.

Barkley is trending in the right direction and has a strong chance to play Week 1 against Denver, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. There is optimism, but the Giants have been cautious and still could hold him back. It will ultimately be a team-driven decision.

"This whole process I've been a team player listening to the doctors, listening to the coaches, listening to the trainers, knowing that they have my best interest at heart," Barkley said. "Whatever they feel that is best for me and best for the team, I'm willing to do."

Barkley was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 9. He worked his way into live drills for the first time last week during joint practices with the New England Patriotswhile wearing a red no-contact jersey.

On Thursday, he shed the red jersey for the first time in live drills. Did he feel like his old self out on the field?

"I guess. I feel good. Taking it one day at a time," Barkley said. "I'm just not even trying to think about do I look like my old self. I'm a very confident player. I know whenever I'm able to get back out there -- maybe it might be one quarter, maybe it might be one play -- whatever the opportunity is, when I'm back out there, I know I'm going to be able to go out there and be who I am and play how I am.

"Right now, I'm not focusing on if I'm making cuts, saying, 'Is that how it was before?' I'm focusing on getting in football shape, just living in the moment, enjoying the moment and playing football again."

There isn't much time remaining. The Giants have 10 days and just four practices before their season opener. Only one is expected to be with full pads. Getting through that would help Barkley inch nearer to being ready for Week 1.

"Do I feel like I'm close? It's been almost 11, 12 months since I've been in a football game, so right now, obviously, there's still some work to be done, to be put in because obviously I've only been practicing for two to three days," he said. "That's why I've got to be a pro outside of football, within football and getting myself ready."

The same holds true for Golladay. He returned Tuesday for a situational/walk-through practice and Thursday marked the first time Golladay has been on the field working in live drills at full speed since he pulled up lame on Aug. 3. He also seemed to be moving well and without limitations, although he didn't exactly indicate his explosiveness had returned fully just yet.

"I feel like each day I'm getting better," Golladay said. "So, right now I'm just taking it day by day, trying to stack good days on top of each other."

The Giants had been without most of their key offensive additions for most of this summer. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) and rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney (COVID-19 and hamstring) also just recently returned.

They all seem to be trending in the right direction for Week 1. But they still haven't reached any final checkpoints.

"It's only day two, really like a day and a half for me," Golladay said. "I've got some time. I'm going to keep working and hope for the best."