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Will Saquon Barkley play in Week 1 for the Giants?

Giants running back Saquon Barkley warms up before

Giants running back Saquon Barkley warms up before a preseason game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. Credit: AP/Noah K. Murray

Saquon Barkley is well aware that fantasy football players are clamoring for information about his status for Sunday’s opener against the Broncos.

But he has a fantasy of his own, one that has played in his head since about a week after his season-ending knee injury in Week 2 of last season.

He has visualized being back on the field with his teammates, and unlike last season, doing so in front of Giants fans at MetLife Stadium.

That moment could be at hand, even though the running back and his coach, Joe Judge, said nothing definitive before or after practice on Friday.

Judge said before practice that Barkley likely would play if he suffered no setbacks, then Barkley said after practice that he had suffered no setbacks.

So draw your own conclusions, fantasy players, Giants fans and Broncos coaches. Officially, Barkley is listed as questionable. Barkley insisted he would not lobby to play when he met with coaches and medical officials.

"I am going to go in there, sit down, and I’m going to say, ‘I’ll do whatever the team wants me to do,’ " Barkley said, a sentiment he repeated in answers to several questions.

Those included whether he would be on a "pitch count" limiting his touches if he does play, and whether he would be prepared to play twice in five days, since the Giants visit Washington on Thursday night in Week 2.

All that can be said for certain is things are trending nicely for Barkley to return 51 weeks after he was hurt.

About that right ACL tear, Barkley said he believes a factor in the injury was his desire to make up for a poor outing in Week 1, when he rushed 15 times for a total of 6 yards in a loss to the Steelers.

He said his motivation was wrong the day he was hurt. "It wasn’t out of love," he said. "It was to show, ‘This is who I am.’ I will never let that happen again."

Before practice, Judge called Barkley’s week of practice "very promising" and "very encouraging," but said the medical staff would make the final decision on his availability.

While Barkley has been "tapping his feet" waiting to get back, Judge praised his patience and willingness to follow expert advice. Barkley said he made that decision early on.

"I made a promise to myself that I’m not going to rush it; I’m going to be a team player," he said. ". . . It’s me being real. It’s me being honest."

Barkley said the biggest milestone in his return came on Aug. 9, when he was removed from the physically unable to perform list in training camp and expanded his workouts beyond running drills away from teammates.

"I’m not a track runner," he said. "I’m a football player."

Notes & quotes: WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring) practiced and seems likely to be available on Sunday. "I’m able to pretty much do everything," he said. But that is not to say that coaches sent Golladay deep on a series of long routes in practice. "Being smart and still getting after it a little bit," he said ... TE Evan Engram (calf) is out ... CB Adoree Jackson (ankle) is questionable.

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