Paul Perkins is the only running back on the Giants who has started an NFL playoff game. The last time the Giants were in the postseason, he was their main guy in the backfield. It appeared he was going to have a long future with them.
That was 2 1⁄2 years ago, at the end of the 2016 season. That might as well be decades in football time, and it might as well be eons when it comes to how swiftly things have changed with this particular team.
Perkins wound up losing his starting job in 2017, sitting out all of 2018 after tearing a pectoral muscle in offseason training and never being able to practice, and watching from the sideline as Saquon Barkley emerged as the Giants’ running back for the foreseeable future.
Perkins now is trying to stick around with an organization run by a head coach and general manager who inherited him on the roster and barely have seen him play in person.
Running backs sometimes are thrown for a loss. It happens. Perkins, it seems, has been driven backward the length of the field.
But he’s starting to make up some ground. He’s been healthy and participating in practices all training camp and has been on the field in the two preseason games this summer. Those were his first games since December 2017.
On Friday against the Bears, he played 25 offensive snaps — the most of any of the three running backs the Giants used — and had 35 rushing yards on six carries. He also caught two passes for 30 yards.
“Going out there reminded me that I can still play football at a high level,” he said Sunday.
It had been so long since he’d done it, apparently even he forgot he could.
Of course, he has to convince others, particularly coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman, who have little to no investment in him. They drafted Barkley. They signed veteran Rod Smith and rookie Jon Hilliman as free agents. They were here last year when Wayne Gallman emerged as the main backup. To them, Perkins was just a guy who wore a sling and sat in on meetings.
Perkins said he wants to show them that he can be a reliable running back. That he can run hard and catch passes and pick up blitzes and “do all the things they want a running back to do.” He’s got two more weeks to convince the decision-makers.
“They want to see proof,” Perkins said.
He’s trying to give it to them.
“I showed signs,” he said.
Perkins, in the final year of his rookie contract with the Giants, might wind up being trimmed out of a crowded running backs room when the roster shrinks to 53, but he thinks he still can be a starter in the NFL. That probably won’t happen with the Giants, but it could happen elsewhere. And it could happen this year. Perkins isn’t trying to impress only the Giants’ front office but the 31 other teams as well.
“I feel like I can still do it,” the 24-year-old said. “I’m not old or anything. I feel like I can do it. I feel like I know how to play football well.”
It had been a while since he was able to try to show that to anyone. Now he’s getting that chance. And he’s got two more preseason games to make his case.
Notes & quotes: Wide receiver Golden Tate, suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, was placed in concussion protocol . . . Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson was excused from practice for a personal matter. Rookie Dexter Lawrence, who had been playing end in the Giants’ three-man front, slid inside to nose tackle in Tomlinson’s absence . . . The starters on offense and defense played the majority of the snaps in Sunday’s practice, which was one of the more physical of training camp. “The fact that the heat went up and the humidity went up was a good thing, so we pushed them through it,” Shurmur said. “It was probably a little bit more physical than you would have two days after a game, but being that we’re still in training camp, I felt like it was necessary.”