Saquon Barkley will be heavily promoted as the focal point of a game that isn’t necessarily good for his health.
How’s that for irony?
The Giants star running back returned Sunday from a 51-week layoff to recover from a torn ACL, and now he has a quick turnaround to “Saquon Barkley and the Giants visiting Washington on Thursday Night Football,” as the commercials say.
“I don’t think this schedule is ideal for coming back from a major injury,” Barkley said. “But that’s what it is. That’s the challenge I have to face.”
Barkley played 29 of 61 offensive snaps against the Broncos but was on pace for a heavier workload until sitting out most of the fourth quarter, after the score got out of hand. His longest gain on 11 touches – 10 carries and one catch – was a 5-yarder on the first play.
“My explosiveness, to me, is not a problem. It’s all still there,” Barkley said. “I didn’t really get myself an opportunity to break a long one, so I guess I couldn’t show that.
“Just got to stick with the game plan, 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 … it’s breaking tackles, getting back to what I do best, and finding a way to be productive and help the team.”
Barkley woke up Monday morning feeling soreness – an ache he missed that comes with the pounding NFL running backs take – and has been listed as limited on estimated injury reports off of walk-throughs this week. He will start, but when will he know if he is ready for two games in five days?
“Thursday, when I’m out there,” Barkley said. “I feel like warming up will definitely indicate, whereas in here I’m not really running full speed.”
Day of the week aside, this might be the perfect matchup for Barkley to reintroduce his dazzling skills. For all the talk of Washington’s vaunted defensive front, Barkley’s two highest career rushing totals (170 in 2018 and 189 in 2019) have come in road games within this NFC East rivalry.
When he self-scouted on film, Barkley saw a running back “knocking the rust off” in Week 1. To be expected, says Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, who tore his ACL early in his career.
“Even when you are healthy physically, it takes something to get totally healthy mentally where you are pushing off and being explosive,” Irvin said on a conference call promoting NFL Network’s broadcast. “It took me quite a few games before I said, ‘OK, I’m just going to make this cut and not think about it.’ ”
The Giants are thinking long term with Barkley — an indication that he remains a big part of the plans as he plays out the final year of his contract. A healthy Barkley typically plays 80 percent of the snaps.
“When you are in the game, and you have the adrenaline going and you get a rhythm going and you start feeling yourself, that can go from less reps to more reps,” Barkley said. “I don’t make that decision.”