The Giants were mostly focused on facing the Vikings when they practiced on Wednesday. There was, however, a bit of a distraction on the field…albeit a pleasant one.
Saquon Barkley, the running back who many believed could be lost to the team for up to eight weeks with a high ankle sprain, was running and cutting with trainers and members of the medical staff just 10 days after suffering his injury.
His recovery seems to be full speed ahead, even if Barkley himself isn’t quite running at that velocity just yet.
It’s so promising that Pat Shurmur left open the possibility that Barkley could play on Sunday, although that remains highly improbable. The game after that is next Thursday against the Patriots. That would seem unlikely, but less so after Wednesday’s showing.
“I don’t know how,” tight end Evan Engram said of Barkley’s remarkable rehab. “That’s just crazy. I think his body is just made in a lab, I don’t know. I’m happy, though, it was good to see.”
Still, just his presence on the field Wednesday made it tempting for the rest of the Giants players to sneak glances at his progress while they were working on their own reps.
Center Jon Halapio said he was checking it out in between snaps.
“It was good to see him out there doing the things he was doing,” Halapio told Newsday. “It’s very encouraging to see him doing that.”
Fullback Eli Penny said he wasn’t watching Barkley in his periphery — he admitted he was straight-out staring at him.
“I’m always watching him,” he said. “Just to see him do what he does is impressive. From the time that he was ruled out to play, to see what he’s doing now is encouraging and impressive as well.”
Barkley looked smooth in his drills as he worked alongside the rest of the team, showing no noticeable signs of a limp or hitch during the portion of the practice that was open to the media.
The Giants never gave an official timeline for Barkley’s return, though such injuries typically take 4-8 weeks to heal. Barkley certainly looks as if he will be back at the low end of that spectrum, if he isn’t able to beat it entirely.
“He’s progressing,” Shurmur said. “Some people’s doctors had him at eight weeks. Not my doctors…It’s one of those things, we’ll see how fast he comes back.”
The Giants won their one full game without Barkley. Backup Wayne Gallman scored two touchdowns in the win over Washington. Barkley, though, gives the Giants a different dimension.
“Wayne did a great job carrying the load,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “It just shows that we have guys that are locked in that can be put in those places and still succeed. But yeah, it’ll be great when we can get [Barkley] back. Saquon’s the best running back in the league, so you want to have him on the field with you.”
When Barkley left the stadium in Tampa a week and a half ago in a protective boot and crutches, he vowed that he would return as quickly as possible and be 10-times stronger. A few days later, he visited Dr. Robert Anderson in Wisconsin to get a second opinion on the injury and see if surgery would be an option (it was not). By this past weekend he had ditched the boot and crutches and was walking around freely.
Shurmur said Wednesday’s workout was not the first time since the injury that Barkley had been on the field doing light running, it was just the first time those on the outside were able to glimpse it. And it certainly caught the attention of the other players.
Barkley was not available to the media on Wednesday, but Shurmur said the running back told him he felt “good” after the workout.
“We’re just going to see where he’s at,” Shurmur said of the next steps in Barkley’s path to a return. “He’s out there moving around.”
He’s also apparently fired up to get back to work with the rest of the team, not by himself.
“Being the competitor that he is, he wants to play this week,” Penny told Newsday. “I think if he was able to go he would go. His spirit is always high.”
On Wednesday, just his presence off to the side and the possibility of an earlier-than-expected return lifted everyone else’s.