New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley takes next step in return from torn ACL

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley took hits in live action Thursday for the first time since suffering a season-ending ACL injury in Week 2 last year.

Barkley did not play in the Giants’ three preseason games.

None of the hits Thursday took Barkley to the ground.

“Within a normal practice, safely … they gave me some good shots,” Barkley said. “It’s in pass protection, route-running, just to get me back in the flow of things.”

Still, the Giants refuse to declare Barkley ready to play in the team’s opener vs. Denver on Sept. 12. Coach Joe Judge said earlier this week the team will not make a decision until days before the game.

Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, led the NFL with 2,028 all-purpose yards as a rookie while adding 15 touchdowns. He was limited to 13 games the following season by a high-ankle sprain, finishing with 1,003 rushing yards and 438 receiving yards while scoring eight total touchdowns.

Related: NFL injury report, including Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley is important to New York Giants’ success

Running back Saquon Barkley jogs off the field at the end of Giants practice, in East Rutherford. Wednesday, July 28, 2021Giants
Running back Saquon Barkley jogs off the field at the end of Giants practice, in East Rutherford (Syndication: The Record)

As we saw last season without Barkley in the mix for all but two games, quarterback Daniel Jones can’t shoulder the load on offense.

After putting up a pretty solid rookie campaign, Jones threw just 11 touchdowns against 10 interceptions while tossing for less than 3,000 yards in 14 games as a sophomore. He also put the ball on the ground 11 times. That’s just ugly. It also cost New York a potential division title in what ended up being a bad NFC East.

Jones’ struggles continued through the preseason slate, meaning that he has not taken that next step many in New Jersey had hoped.

Getting Saquon Barkley back on the field for Week 1 against the Denver Broncos will loom large. The Giants have a pretty favorable schedule to start with four of their first five games coming against teams who finished last season with a losing record.

As for Saquon Barkley, the Giants pushed back against handing him a contract extension this past offseason. The former No. 2 pick needs to prove that he is 100% and ready to go if he’s going to cash a big check following the 2021 campaign.

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(Field Level Media contributed to this report)