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‘Valentine’s Views:’ Saquon Barkley should not play Thursday, and more

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Here are a few “things I think” this week

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants
Saquon Barkley
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for a few “things I think” as the New York Giants transition quickly from a loss to the Minnesota Vikings to a daunting matchup Thursday night with the New England Patriots.

I hope Saquon Barkley does not play Thursday

Sterling Shepard is in the concussion protocol. Again. This time, he will probably be there for several weeks. Wayne Gallman has a concussion and won’t play against the Patriots. Tight end Evan Engram has a knee that coach Pat Shurmur is calling “game soreness,” but it seems possible he won’t play Thursday.

All of that, combined with the fact that this will be a nationally televised Thursday Night Football game against the best team in the league, increases the pressure on the Giants to rush Barkley back onto the field less than three weeks after he suffered a high ankle sprain.

Shurmur said on Monday that Barkley playing on Thursday is “a possibility.”

Frankly, I hope it’s one that does not come to pass.

The Giants’ offense is a mess right now with so many players banged up and the offensive line coming off its worst game of the year. The defense is an equally big mess. The Patriots are unbeaten, are scoring 31 points per game and giving up less than 7.

Sorry to be blunt, Giants fans, but Daniel Jones and Co. are not winning Thursday in Foxborough. Whether Barkley plays or not.

So, why play him. He might be Superman. Or, think he’s Superman. Maybe he heals faster than most human beings, but a high ankle sprain is generally a four- to six-week injury. There’s no chance that Barkley will be 100 percent Thursday.

So, why take the risk?

The Giants have recent history with two star players who rushed back from high ankle sprains, and it did not work out well either time.

Olivier Vernon suffered one in 2017, missed four games, was never really 100 percent and then had trouble with the same ankle last season and missed the first five games.

Odell Beckham Jr. also had one in 2017. He rushed back at less than 100 percent and eventually fractured that ankle.

Barkley is the best running back in the NFL. He is a guy the Giants are counting on to be one of those rare running backs who maintains his greatness for eight to 10 years, maybe longer.

Jordan Ranaan of ESPN is now reporting that Barkley is “unlikely” to play on Thursday.

That, honestly, is as it should be. The Giants simply can’t do anything to jeopardize him long-term.

C’mon, Pat! Be better than that

I have to circle back to an answer Shurmur gave during his post-game press conference on Sunday evening. Asked by Paul Schwartz of the New York Post if the Giants could have done anything different on the play where the Vikings tackled running back Jon Hilliman for a safety, The Giants coach gave what I thought was an unsatisfactory and somewhat sarcastic answer.

“Other than run the ball? We could’ve thrown it. I certainly could have thrown it. It was a run play that, in hindsight, we didn’t execute it well enough and we gave up a safety. That’s two points, you move on. That’s that. We got beat by what, what did we get beat by? 18. That was a bad play on our part, we have to clean it up and move on. Good question, though, tough question. Good question.”

That answer completely ignores the fact that the safety was really much more than a two-point play.

The score was 13-7 Vikings when Jabrill Peppers forced a fumble that saved a Minnesota touchdown. With barely more than two minutes left in the first half, the Giants had a chance to go into halftime down by one score and with some momentum if they could just get a first down or two, flip field position and run some clock.

Instead, the Vikings got a safety and added a field goal after getting the subsequent free kick. They went into the locker room an 11-point lead and all of the momentum. So, yes, that was a game-changing play worth much more than the two points it led to on the scoreboard and Shurmur needed to be asked about it.

I think we deserved a better answer.

Shepard and his second concussion

I’m not having this blame the Giants doctors for Shepard’s latest concussion stuff. I have seen it a few times on Twitter, and it’s nonsense.

Shepard hid his first concussion, suffered Week 1 vs. the Dallas Cowboys. The fact that no one on the sideline — Giants doctors, coaches, officials or league concussion spotters — noticed Shepard go down was, and is, a problem.

What happened Sunday, not so much. When Shepard was spotted looking wobbly after crashing to the ground on an incomplete pass the game was stopped per league concussion protocol. He was taken off the field and examined by Giants team doctors AND the league’s Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant (UNC). He was cleared to return after concussion testing. This was not simply Giants’ doctors ignoring the signs or putting the team ahead of the player.

Shepard reported symptoms Monday morning, which is not at all unusual. Per the Mayo Clinic “The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not show up immediately.”

So, let’s lay off the Giants team doctors. We won’t see Shepard again until everyone is certain he is completely ready to go.

A word about Golden Tate

Some were critical of yours truly for giving Tate a ‘Wet Willie’ after his comments Sunday regarding his limited use vs. Minnesota. Perhaps the ‘WW’ was a bit strong, but I’m entitled to my belief and you are entitled to yours. You will recall that I said at the time I didn’t know if he was really unhappy, but what he said could be perceived that way.

Tate clarified those remarks on Monday, and that’s a good thing. The only point I ever really wanted to make is that perhaps Tate, a player who has been around long enough to know how things can get misinterpreted if you don’t say them correctly, should have framed his initial answer more carefully.