saquon barkley
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Giants running back Saquon Barkley returned to team drills in practice for the first time since his 2020 ACL tear.

Saquon Barkley took another significant stride in the recovery process Thursday.

In what was the second of two joint practices with the Patriots, Barkley participated in team drills with the Giants. It’s the first time he’s done such a thing since tearing his ACL in Week 2 of last season.

How did Barkley perceive this next step of the ramp-up period?

“It felt good. Obviously, I wasn’t at practice yesterday, but it feels good being with the team, feels good to get a couple of team reps,” the fourth-year back revealed, per the team’s official website. “It’s just fun to be able to play football again, feel like a little kid and just taking it day by day.”

The Giants activated Barkley off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list earlier this month and the obvious procedure was to not throw him into live drills immediately. Given the severity of the 2020 injury, slow and steady was (and still is) the correct maneuver to returning Barkley to 100%.

At this moment in time, however, further evaluation of Saquon and his health-related situation is required. He’s still donning the red non-contact practice jersey and it’s unclear when it may come off.

But when it does, defenses will understand the challenges at hand.

“Once he gets that red jersey off, he’s a tough tackle,” safety Logan Ryan told the media. “He brings a lot of energy to our team, he’s obviously one of our better players and it’s good to see him feeling like himself, bouncing around and getting some action. I know he’s been chomping at the bit for it, so I’m just excited for him just in this process coming back from injury. It’s always exciting to get that opportunity and dust off those cobwebs. I think he did a good job of that.”

“Chomping at the bit” seems like the perfect phrase for Barkley right now. It’s been over 11 months since the former No. 2 overall draft pick played in a live game, so when Barkley took this next step in the process, exhilaration was likely present.

“[Saquon was], excited [on the sideline Thursday],” linebacker Blake Martinez mentioned to reporters. “Just like anybody back being out here playing the game you love. It’s cool to see just the excitement across the board. I feel like all of our team loves to be out here, loves to compete and [we’re] building a great culture around that.”

The goal will be for Barkley to partake in the Week 1 matchup against Denver.

Of course, it’s not confirmed that that will be the case. There’s still the chance the organization feels more comfortable activating him for Week 3 (I say this only because the Giants’ Week 2 game is just four days following their Week 1 matchup).

In the event Barkley isn’t ready to face the Broncos, the Giants will likely field Devontae Booker as their starter. New York inked Booker to a two-year deal back in March.

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