FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley is expected to participate more in drills during this week’s joint practice with the New England Patriots as he continues to impress with his physical progression off a torn ACL in his right knee.
But first, Barkley will not be at Wednesday’s joint practice as he attends to a personal matter, sources told ESPN. He will rejoin the team Thursday where the plan is to get him going potentially in live drills, perhaps with some slight limitations.
At this point, it’s another positive step in his comeback. Barkley’s time away from the team isn’t expected to set him back with Week 1 in sight, and there remains a possibility that he’s ready to play in the Sept. 12 opener against the Denver Broncos.
“He keeps advancing in his rehab,” coach Joe Judge said Monday. “His foot is tapping every day, wanting to do more and more, and physically he keeps progressing and showing us he can do more and more.”
Barkley tore the ACL in his right knee in a Week 2 game in Chicago last year. He also had the meniscus repaired and there was damage to the MCL.
The Giants have been adamant about bringing Barkley back slowly this summer, taking a “long-term perspective” with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. They want to make sure Barkley is in the best possible situation to succeed not only early this season, but for the future.
Barkley began the summer on the physically unable to perform list. He was activated just over two weeks ago.
His first week of practice consisted mostly of individual drills. Barkley spent a majority of those afternoons watching his teammates work. He did slightly more last week, with some 1-on-1s during joint practices in Cleveland and a few passing game drills against his own defense.
This week the expectation is he will do more.
For now, it will have to wait at least one more day. The Giants have joint practices open to the public in Foxboro with the Patriots on Wednesday and Thursday. They return to East Rutherford on Friday for what is likely to amount to a Giants-only walkthrough prior to their final preseason game Sunday against New England.
It remains unlikely that Barkley would play in the preseason contest.
Regardless, the plan remains for the Giants to use Barkley cautiously early this season, even if he’s back by Week 1. He will not see a workload in his first few games at close to the 90% of the offensive snaps he was playing prior to the injury.
That means he could split time in the backfield early this season with offseason acquisition Devontae Booker, who has cemented himself as the Giants’ No. 2 back this summer. Barkley, meanwhile, will be eased back into the action, both for the long term benefit of the player and team.
The Giants still do expect for Barkley to be a part of their future. But they want to see him return before making any overarching evaluations or commitments.
“Well, you need to see him back on the field producing, which we expect that to be the case,” co-owner John Mara said last week. “Our medical people feel very good about where he’s at right now. I like what I’ve seen from him out on the field and hopefully that’ll be an easy decision for us as well.”