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Joe Judge: Saquon Barkley is “making strides” in his return to the field

Barkely isn’t back yet, but he’s making progress

NFL: NY Giants Training Camp Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants and Giants’ fans alike are waiting with bated breath for running back Saquon Barkley to return to the field.

Reports from training camp have mentioned Barkley on the field (albeit in shorts and a tee shirt) with his teammates. Others have detailed him working on distant fields with trainers. But for right now he is still going through the rehab process in the wake of the ACL tear which ended his 2020 season after a little more than two games.

The subject of Barkley and his return to the field is constantly on the mind of everyone watching the Giants’ training camp.

When head coach Joe Judge spoke to the assembled media on Monday, he offered a small update on Barkley’s status — though it might be a bit more vague than many are hoping.

“He’s making a lot of strides for us and I don’t want to go ahead and make any predictions or anything on Saquon, but I will say that this guy’s showing progress, tangible progress every day with our medical staff, with our strength staff,” Judge said.

Progress is, of course, the name of the game. The Giants are taking their time with Barkley and have been ever since the injury first occurred. Barkley’s injury originally occurred against the Chicago Bears on September 20th of last year, but patience was necessary as it took until October 30th for the swelling to go down enough that doctors could repair the knee.

Now everyone involved is just being patient in getting Barkley to where he needs to be so that he can play at full speed when he’s ready to rejoin the team.

“Right now, we’ve really mirrored his rehab to what our players are doing on the field practice-wise to make sure that he’s building up that same volume, that same intensity,” Judge said. “We can kind of go apples to apples with what he’s done on a daily basis compared to the players that are in practice to give us a better picture in terms of where he is physically.”

But fans — and therefore the media — don’t want to hear about “progress” or progressively ramping up rehab to make sure the knee and structures surrounding the joint are ready to endure an NFL season. Of course, all that progress is absolutely important. Not only does the knee have to stand up to the rigors of the running back position, but it also has to stand up to the explosive power Barkley is able to generate.

The folks listening to Judge’s press conference don’t really want to hear that. They just want a date, a target, for when Barkley can be expected to get back on the field.

Unfortunately Judge couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give them that.

“I couldn’t give you an answer on that,” he said. “That’s not being coy right there. Look, with this injury right here, we’re going to make sure we do the right thing by Saquon and what’s better for the team and we’ve got to take a long-term vision of this right here. The doctors know a lot more about the knee, about where he is medically.”

Coy? Well, I’m not sure that word is applicable to Joe Judge, but it’s safe to assume that there’s a fair amount of “coach speak” going on. The medical staff is likely being as patient as possible, and the most important thing is avoiding a setback or re-injury. That makes a definite timetable difficult to pin down. The last thing anyone wants is for Barkely to rush back to the field just for some practice highlights or an exhibition game.

But Judge also can’t really expect us to believe that he isn’t in constant contact with the medical staff as to the health of his injured players.

All that being said, Barkley will be back at some point. And the one thing is Judge didn’t need to dip into “coach speak” for was to talk about the effort the running back is putting into his rehab, nor the team’s desire for him to stay on the field when he gets there.

“I know where his spirit is,” Judge said. “I know where his work ethic is. I know he wants to be out there with the team. As I’ve said to him time and time again, when you’re ready, we’ll let you go. I know he wants to be out there, but we’ve got to make sure we help our players make the right decision. The goal is to get him out there and keep him out there. We know he can make a great impact for this team. We know what kind of player he can be, so we want to make sure we put him in the opportunity to go ahead and play full-speed, aggressive and confident when he gets out there.”