Logan Ryan remembers one time in Patriots training camp when Devin McCourty was coming back from a shoulder injury and before he was cleared to play in a game Bill Belichick wanted to put that part of his body to the test.
"He was All-Pro and Bill had him after practice doing live tackling drills with scout team running backs," Ryan said. "I know he did the same thing with Junior Seau . . . They were good players and they were like ‘What? You want me to do what?’"
Something similar may be brewing with the Giants in the coming days. Joe Judge has said he wants to see how Saquon Barkley reacts to getting hit before he signs off on playing the running back in a regular season game, and now that the preseason schedule is completed, the only way to do that is with Giants players making those hits.
Judge said such collisions will likely take place Wednesday or Thursday this week. That way Barkley will have several days off over Labor Day weekend and return on Monday when the training staff can assess how he came through those drills.
As for who will be delivering those hits on Barkley, Ryan said: "I think Blake [Martinez] has first dibs."
Ryan did note that he would make himself available to Barkley both during and after practices.
"Whatever he needs, extra hits, extra routes, I’m free to get on that to get him ready for when it’s his time to go," he said.
That time to go seems to be drawing near. Judge said that a decision on Barkley’s readiness for the opener against the Broncos next Sunday would likely come early next week. And so far all signs seem to be pointing to a positive.
"I haven't seen the contact yet, so I couldn't tell you deliberately on that, but I would say just as body movements and how he's moving efficiently and how his body's responding, I've seen that progress positively throughout the way," Judge said. "I rely a lot on the information from our training staff and medical staff and doctors who spend a lot of time with him. I know he's been working hard, we get a lot of GPS numbers and different readings on his body, they trend in the right direction for him with how he's working. He's had some good days on the field with us."
Judge said the "biggest" day for Barkley was last week when he was on the field against the Patriots in a joint practice.
"Even though it was a lower volume day for him and limited plays, there's some things he was able to do out there in terms of the reaction on the field, in short space and with some quickness, that showed his body's progressing beyond just rehab," Judge said.
Now for the final test. The hits. They have to be imparted with precision, of course, so as to test but not target the knee.
"We’ll just do a nice form tackle, keep our head up," Ryan said. "It’s football, We all like a little bit of contact. Some of us do . . . He better not give me a good shot either."
It will be a little odd, and a tremendous responsibility, for Giants defenders to be tackling a player on whose shoulders so much of this season’s potential rests.
"Hey, if Junior Seau did it and Devin McCourty did it," Ryan said, "I wouldn’t be surprised Saquon has to do it."