Judge encouraged by Barkley’s practices for Giants opener

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Roughly a year after tearing his right ACL, indications are Saquon Barkley is going to play for the New York Giants in the season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Coach Joe Judge said the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year had a good week of practice, terming the workouts encouraging and promising. The second-year head coach said the running back will need final approval from the team’s medical staff to play.

The Giants listed Barkley as questionable. He was limited in practice all week.

Barkley said he felt good this week, noting he did not have a setback. That was a problem Judge said could keep fourth-year player out of the game.

“I wouldn’t go out there unless I felt confident that I can protect myself and be able to help the team,” Barkley said.

Barkley, injured in the second game of last season, would not say whether he’ll play. As he has for the past six months, he said the team will make that decision.

The Giants have a four-day window for their first two games and that could play into how the team decides to use him. The Giants play Washington in a divisional game on Thursday night.

Having Barkley play would be a plus, said receiver Kenny Golladay, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract as a free agent in March.

“I’ve seen, once he got back on the field, how happy he was that he was able to feel like himself again and that’s huge,” Golladay said. “Having 26 out there on that football field with us is going to make a lot of peoples’ day a lot easier.”

And it may make it tougher on the Broncos, who went 3-0 in the preseason. The Giants were winless.

Looking back on the injury against the Bears, Barkley said being held to 6 yards on 15 carries in the season opener against Pittsburgh last season might have influenced how he played against the Bears on Sept. 20.

“The last time I played a game of football, I didn’t play in the right place at heart,” Barkley said. “It wasn’t out of love. It was kind of to show that, this is who I am. I will never let that happen to me again.”

Barkley had reconstructive surgery on his knee in late October and rehabilitated his knee for almost nine months. He started training camp on the physically unable to perform list and wasn’t cleared to start practicing in full until late in August.

The former Penn State star said rehab was hard enough that there were times it was a struggle. That was the case when the rehabilitation was mostly training. Things improved after he came off PUP on Aug. 9. He then started practicing on a limited basis.

“When I started to do football specific, something like put a ball in my hand, I felt everything just came so easy,” he said.

Barkley has rushed for 2,344 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first three seasons. He has also caught 149 passes, including six for TDs.

NOTES: Pro Bowl tight end Evan Engram did not practice this week because of a calf injury and will not play Sunday. … Cornerback Adoree Jackson was limited in practice all week. He also is listed as questionable. … The only Broncos players who may not play is outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (ankle). He has been limited in practice the past two days and is questionable.

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