ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Odell Beckham Jr. chastised Saquon Barkley.
“I mean, I don’t know how you pull your hamstring as a rookie,” the wide receiver said. “That’s just unreal.”
Of course he was kidding. It wasn’t too long ago that Beckham was in the same place as Barkley, a first-round pick sidelined with a hamstring injury in his first training camp with the Giants. That injury wound up costing Beckham the first four games of his rookie season, and there’s been a lot of hand-wringing from Giants fans ever since Barkley came up a little gingerly from a dazzling catch on Monday that he might be heading down the same path.
But while Barkley has missed the past three days of joint practices with the Lions and will almost certainly not play in Friday’s preseason game in Detroit, there does not appear to be many other similarities in their injuries.
“Mine is a strain and he like completely pulled his,” Barkley said on Thursday, in his first public comments since suffering what the Giants have called a mildly strained or “tweaked” left hamstring. “Thank God I didn’t pull mine.”
Still, Beckham has been able to offer advice to Barkley on handling the injury.
“Like I told him, take your time,” said Beckham, who was rushed back onto the field and suffered a setback in that rookie training camp. “There’s nothing you need to prove to any of us. There’s nothing you need to prove to anybody, not yourself. You know what you’re capable of. I know what you’re capable of. We know what you’re capable of. It’s just about getting healthy.”
Beckham also offered a warning.
“He’s saying that those are things that can linger on and you have to be in the weight room, you have to be in the training room and you have to take care of yourself and really take it day by day,” Barkley said.
So that’s what he’s been doing, doggedly rehabbing the injury and working to make sure that come the opener against Jacksonville in just a little over three weeks the hamstring is a mere afterthought. On Thursday, he did some jogging on a grass field slick with rain. It wasn’t quite full speed, but it was a little bit brisker than what he was able to do on Wednesday.
“It’s a little frustrating to watch your guys be out there and not be able to compete with them,” he said. “But you have to trust the team, the coaching staff, the trainers and the strength staff. They have a great plan in place and they’re doing the best they can to get me back as quick as possible.”
He’s been using his down time to take mental reps while the team has been practice and he pitches in on drills that teammates have been running by catching loose footballs or providing a somewhat stationary body for them to run around.
“Even though I’m not able to practice I’m not going to let this be a negative setback,” he said. “I’m going to let it be a positive and continue to grow from it and be a better player from it.”
He’s also apparently obsessing a bit over how this injury happened in the first place.
“I wasn’t scared because I knew it wasn’t nothing crazy,” Barkley said of his thoughts when the injury happened. “I just felt frustrated because a lot of those things are preventative and it’s about taking care of your body and treating your body. Make sure you are hydrated and stuff. I thought I was doing all of those things right but this just shows you that even when you think you’re doing enough you have to find a way to do more… Something like this happens and you have so much time to reflect so you reflect on things you could have done differently. I probably could have done everything differently, a little more of this, a little more of that.”
On Friday night, Barkley will miss his first game with an injury since his freshman year at Penn State when an ankle kept him out of two contests. He recalled the coaches and training staff there holding him out even though he felt ready to play because they wanted to protect his future. Friday night will likely be the same scenario.
“I want to play,” he said. “I don’t know what the game plan is to be honest, I just know that I’m day-to-day, taking it step by step.”
Beckham said he doesn’t want to interfere too much in Barkley’s rehab even though he went through a similar situation himself.
“I can give him some insight on what I went through, but at the same time, I still have to step back because it’s his journey and you have to let him make his decisions,” Beckham said. “Just trying to keep his spirits up. He wants to be out there. He’s always been a guy who works hard, just keeping his mind right.”
And getting his body right for the opener.
“Man,” Beckham said, “he’s gonna be good come September 9. And that’s all that really matters right now.”