saquon barkley giants
Syndication: NorthJersey

Saquon Barkley is returning from last year’s ACL tear. His head coach, however, doesn’t want to rush the overall process.

Could we see Saquon Barkley suit up against the Denver Broncos Week 1?

The Giants running back, who’s entering his fourth season, is coming off a September 2020 ACL tear and has indeed made progress with his recovery.

But that doesn’t mean the Giants will return him as soon as possible.

“We’ve got to look at the long-term picture with Saquon,” head coach Joe Judge told SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano last week. “We’ve got to make the right decision for the team long term. That could include long-term throughout this season, long-term throughout a career.

“So I always want to do what’s best for the player in a situation like this, to make sure we don’t put him in a position that’s going to put him at risk because he isn’t ready.”

If the Giants don’t activate Saquon for that Sept. 12 home matchup with Denver, they will likely look to Devontae Booker to temporarily assume the No. 1 running back duties. The organization acquired Booker on a two-year deal in March.

Big Blue placed Saquon on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list last week and he will most likely be there when the entire team begins training camp Tuesday. I wouldn’t let the placement automatically lead you to think he won’t be in uniform against the Broncos though. The Giants can activate Barkley off the PUP list at any time and there is still over a month until the regular-season opener.

But regardless of when he is activated and ready to go, the Giants cannot and will not toss him directly into the fire. They will ease Barkley back into practice — the smart move to make.

“When the doctors say it’s time to incorporate him into practice with the rest of the team we’ll get him going,” the second-year head coach said. “Look, we’re not going to go and throw him zero to 100 right away. We’ll build him up and let him gain confidence and gain experience and reps. And when it’s time to go and introduce him against opponents, we will.”

Barkley’s 2021 campaign will be crucial for his potential long-term future in East Rutherford. The Giants exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, which is set to keep in with the organization through 2022. A stellar performance this upcoming season, however, could lead to a lucrative contract extension for the 2018 first-rounder.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.