SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Giants have ruled Saquon Barkley out for Thursday night's game against the 49ers.
While the Giants will miss him, the move was the prudent one.
Barkley, who sustained an ankle sprain last week, is as important as any player on the roster. He played an incredible 66 of 68 snaps in Sunday's win over the Cardinals — an almost unheard of task — and the Giants might not have won that game without every one of his contributions.
Matt Breida, a seven-year veteran who played in Buffalo while Brian Daboll was offensive coordinator for the Bills, will likely take at least some of the snaps that were ticketed for Barkley. Breida also spent the early part of his career as a 49er.
Daboll initially would not rule out Barkley to play against the 49ers. Asked earlier in the week about Barkley being out for “at least some time,” Daboll said, “I wouldn’t count on that, not just yet.”
Daboll added: “He’s a quick healer. I’m not saying he’s in [or] he’s out. We are going to take it all the way up with him to Thursday, but he feels a lot better today [Monday]. I just talked to him. So, we will see where we are at.”
That changed on Wednesday afternoon when the Giants ruled Barkley out.
Certainly, it makes more sense, especially this early in the season, for the Giants to play without Barkley for now. They’ll now hope to have him back for their next game, against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football on Oct. 2.
Daboll said he would be “comfortable” with the other backs on the roster if Barkley was unable to play. In addition to Breida, the Giants also have Gary Brightwell and rookie Eric Gray.
It has been a few seasons since Breida logged a representative number of plays in a regular-season game. He hasn't had 10 or more rushing attempts in a game since Dec. 20, 2020, when he rushed 12 times for 86 yards for the Bills in a win over the Dolphins.
Breida said he is ready for whatever the Giants need from him.
“[When] I came into the league, I was fifth string, and then I was a starter at one point, so this is nothing new to me,” he said. “Football is football at the end of the day, you go out there and play, so it’s nothing new. Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do. If I’ve got to play 80 snaps, 100 snaps, like I said I’ve been a starter before so it’s nothing new to me. At the end of the day if he can’t go, we are all ready to step up and do our part."
Breida will be going against his former team, having spent his first three seasons with the 49ers.
”It’s always good to go back, you know, some of my old teammates [tight end George] Kittle, [wide receiver] Deebo [Samuel], [defensive lineman Nick] Bosa, all of them over there, so it’ll be good to see them,” Breida said. “I think it’s going to be a good atmosphere, the guys will be ready, so it’s going to be a good game.”
Barkley won't be the only starter missing. Left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring), left guard Ben Bredeson (concussion) and outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (hamstring) have also been ruled out.
After road wins over the Steelers and Rams, the 49ers finally open their home slate.
And time, on a short work week for both teams, is of the essence.
"You have two days, really, [to prepare]," 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy said. "You're just trying to pack everything in within a couple days and then get your body right to play on Thursday. It’s different. The preparation is just more intense for both teams."
The 49ers represent another difficult test for the Giants, who have already weathered a disappointing home opener against Dallas, losing 40-0, and pulled out a come-from-behind squeaker over the rebuilding Cardinals, 31-28.
Obviously, the 49ers will have a home-field advantage in this game. Levi's Stadium is considered one of the toughest venues for visiting teams.
As Bosa said, “Our crowd is one of the best in the league. Having a packed Levi's a big advantage."
Since 2021, the 49ers record at home stands at an impressive 12-5.
"Having support from the [fans] is everything," Purdy said. “The energy, you can just feel it. There’s something different about this place.”