The New York Giants began their Monday with excellent news: Saquon Barkley would be back on the field.
The Big Blue running back came off the physically unable to perform list Monday and participated in practice for the first time since his ACL injury.
The New York Post first reported Barkley would come off the PUP list this week.
"It felt great," Barkley told NFL Network's Kim Jones after practice. "I know it's not a huge step, it's a small step in my rehab process. … I felt good running, I felt good cutting. But now I got to start simulating against NFL athletes, seeing guys shed blocks and react off of them and get to a point where I get hit and I get tackled.
"The way I see it, it's kind of like riding a bike. Once it happens, you get right into the flow of things and be able to be who I am."
Barkley ripped up his knee, including an ACL tear, in Week 2 of the 2020 campaign. After surgery, the rehab process has been slow and arduous for the dynamic playmaker.
The Giants hoped to get the star back on the field in early August, but some reluctant comments from Barkley and the club when camp opened gave the indication his timeline could be pushed. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted last week that the Giants pegged anytime between Week 1 and 3 for a Barkley return.
Barkley returning to the practice field today and exiting the PUP list is the first glimmer of hope we have gotten that the former Pro Bowler might be ready for the season opener. The Giants could have kept him on the PUP list for several more weeks, so his return to practice today indicates that both Barkley and the team are comfortable with where he is in rehab.
"It was nice having him back out there with the team," Giants coach Joe Judge told Jones. "Obviously, this is more of an extension of his rehab … but he looked good out there. It was good having him back with the team.
"I know he's been (champing) at the bit. Biggest thing with him is you have to tap the brakes a little bit on him, kind of look out for his best interests. Dude's a competitor, he wants to get out there. Already he's looking to go 11-on-11. But we'll kind of get to that in due time. He looked good out there today."
Judge told reporters that Monday's news doesn't alter their planned timeline for his return, and that Barkley will play once the team's medical staff gives the OK. Judge added, however, that Barkley will not play during Saturday's preseason opener against the Jets.
Expect the ramp-up period to be lengthy for Barkley. The Giants haven't pushed him throughout his rehab, and they won't start now. Day by day, however, we expect to see baby steps from Barkley with the hope that he'll be full-go to open the 2021 season.
"The only way you truly can get ready for that is by simulating it on the football field," Barkley told Jones. "When I'm able to do that, I know I have an unbelievable organization that I play for and unbelievable coach, that I don't feel forced, unbelievable training staff that I don't feel like they're forcing me.
"I'm listening to my body and listening to myself, that whenever I'm able to play, whatever week it is, I'm going to be 100 percent confident in myself."