New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley takes next step in recovery, completes first contact practice

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay participated in a padded practice Thursday, and Barkley took some contact seemingly without incident for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee 11 months ago.

It was the latest step in Barkley’s progression and a mandatory one before he gets into a match, according to coach Joe Judge. The Giants open the campaign Sept. 12 versus the Denver Broncos.

“We did a normal practice safely, and just talked to the guys and [they] gave me some good shots,” Barkley said afterward. “But it’s [about] route running and running routes just to get me back in the flow of things, so I guess you could say yes [I took my first hit].

“But [Thursday] felt good at practice and practicing with everyone on the team. Think that was definitely needed. Just grateful to be out there and just getting ready for the season.”

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Barkley will have to get through another fully padded practice next week before likely getting cleared by doctors.

The Giants don’t practice again until Monday.

Barkley is trending in the right direction and has a strong chance to play Week 1 versus Denver, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. There is optimism, but the Giants have been cautious and still could hold him back. It will ultimately be a team-driven decision.

“This whole process I’ve been a team player listening to the doctors, listening to the coaches, listening to the trainers, knowing that they have my best interest at heart,” Barkley said. “Whatever they feel that is best for me and best for the team, I’m willing to do.”

Barkley was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 9. He worked his way into live drills for the first time last week during joint practices with the New England Patriots while wearing a red no-contact jersey.

On Thursday, he shed the red jersey for the first time in live drills. Did he feel like his old self out on the field?

“I guess. I feel good. Taking it one day at a time,” Barkley said. “I’m just not even trying to think about do I look like my old self. I’m a very confident player. I know whenever I’m able to get back out there — maybe it might be one quarter, maybe it might be one play — whatever the opportunity is, when I’m back out there, I know I’m going to be able to go out there and be who I am and play how I am.

“Right now, I’m not focusing on if I’m making cuts, saying, ‘Is that how it was before?’ I’m focusing on getting in football shape, just living in the moment, enjoying the moment and playing football again.”

There isn’t much time left. The Giants have 10 days and just four practices before their season opener. Only one is expected to be with full pads. Getting through that would help Barkley inch nearer to being ready for Week 1.

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