Saquon Barkley will not make an unlikely return to action two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain. The Giants today declared their star running back out of their home game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
“After consulting with our doctors, we decided that he’s not going to play this week,” coach Pat Shurmur said.
Barkley, who was injured in the victory at Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, returned to practice today on a limited basis. He had spent the previous two days rehabilitating with the team’s athletic training staff.
“He took some reps today,” Shurmur said. “We deemed him out this week, and that’s how we’re going to play it. I understand everybody’s interested in the situation. You (reporters) got to see him moving around out here with your own eyes. But we decided that he’s not playing this week.”
Asked if he’s encouraged by what he’s seen this week from Barkley, Shurmur said. “I’m encouraged because he’s going through his rehab process and he’s making an effort to come back quickly.
“I think he’s making good progress, and when he’s ready to play, we’ll put him out there.”
The next chance for that will be Thursday night when the Giants visit the New England Patriots.
Without Barkley, the Giants’ running game will again be in the capable of hands – or legs – of third-year pro Wayne Gallman and rookie Jon Hilliman, who made his NFL debut last week vs. Washington.
Barkley is constantly encouraging both of them. Gallman and Hilliman understand they aren’t expected to perfectly mimic Barkley, but must give the team the level of production needed to win a game. And it is in that context that they are determined to continue capitalizing on their opportunity.
“We talk about that all of the time,” Hilliman said. “It’s key that you’re not trying to be someone you’re not. Saquon Barkley is a once-in-a-generation back. He’s somebody that’s phenomenal. He does phenomenal things in his way. Wayne is a phenomenal back in his way. I’m a phenomenal back in my way. That’s three different ways. We all believe that we can get it done, just in a different way. That’s just what we speak about all of the time. Even with (Eli) Penny, we speak about it all the time. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Just play to the best of your capability and be who you are and believe that you can get it done your way.
“We’re not going to drop the standard. The standard is what it is in our room, regardless of who carries the ball. We’re not dropping the standard for anybody, so that’s kind of how we feel about that.”
As his backfield mate for two years, Gallman knows better than anyone how special Barkley is. But his job now is to produce enough that the Rookie of the Year’s absence is not a factor in the game’s outcome.
“Football is a team game,” Gallman said. “Whether you have a two-back rotation, one-back rotation where it’s simply just the main guy and someone is filling in the role like I have, or a three-back rotation, it doesn’t matter. You just have to keep the main thing the main thing, prepare, and just get ready to play and be a team player. It’s not about being an individual. You have to throw all of those feelings out the door and you just have to focus on what you have and what you can control.”
Gallman was one of the offensive stars of the Giants’ victory against the Redskins last week. He scored their two offensive touchdowns, one apiece rushing and receiving, ran for 63 yards and caught six passes for another 55 yards. His 118 yards from scrimmage were a career high.
“Just being able to get that rhythm and you start to really feel it, I haven’t had that in a long time,” Gallman said. “Just being out there and being able to have that moving forward, I think preparation for me is not changing, but just a little different in a way.”
Hilliman rushed for 33 yards on 10 carries. Like Gallman, he lost a fumble in the game. But Hilliman’s occurred at the Washington two-yard line. And that stuck with him more than his 33 yards after his first NFL appearance.
“I’m a perfectionist,” he said. “It was an easy fix. Just put two hands on the ball. I got overexcited. I saw the end zone. Rookie mistake. Obviously, I just knew what I had to do and just did it. But besides that, don’t change anything. Run as hard as you can, hit the holes, be physical in protection, be smart on your routes, communicate and stuff like that. Obviously, if I get that opportunity this week, I have to go punch it in.”
That’s the attitude the entire backfield will maintain as long as Barkley is sidelined.
*The other three players on the Giants’ final injury report are all linebackers. Alec Ogletree (hamstring) and Tae Davis (concussion) are out, and Lorenzo Carter (neck) is questionable.
Without Ogletree and Davis and rookie Ryan Connelly, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL vs. Washington, the Giants’ inside linebackers will be David Mayo, Nate Stupar and rookie free agent Josiah Tauaefa, who was signed off the practice squad this week.
“We’re very confident in the guys that we’re going to put out there,” Shurmur said.
Asked why, he said, “Because they’re good football players, and they’re pro football players. We’ve liked what we’ve seen from what they’ve done in practice and for some of them, what they’ve done in games.”