Saquon Barkley came into the National Football League as the one of the highest regarded running back prospects of all time. Coming off a devastating injury to his ACL, can he still become the ‘gold jacket’ player that the Giants drafted?
On September 20th, 2020, NY Giants running back Saquon Barkley’s career was forever altered.
No matter what happens now, there will always be two separate portions of Barkley’s career: before he underwent surgery for a torn ACL, and after.
Pre-torn ACL, Barkley was on track to becoming one of the league’s elite running backs before he suffered his injury on the Soldier Field grass. In his first two seasons he put everyone on notice – becoming one of the biggest nightmares for defensive coordinators around the league.
After being a somewhat controversial pick a second overall, NY Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman justified the pick by comparing Barkley to Greek gods and football legends. In his first draft as general manager, he went out on a limb for Barkely because he believed he was that good.
After having basically an entire season stolen from him, the question now becomes whether he’ll ever achieve the greatness he seemed destined for. He underwent surgery on October 30th, 2020, and is currently in the process of a journey that can either make him one of the great football success stories, or leave everyone wondering – what if.
As the former Penn State superstar tries to emulate past success stories, let’s take a look at how current NFL backs returned from the same injury. All ACL recovery stories are different, and no two running backs are the same – but it could give us an idea of what to expect when Barkley returns.
He’s become the gold-standard for recovering from an ACL injury. Peterson had people questioning whether or not he was human when he returned from the injury that’s claimed multiple back’s careers – seemingly better afterwards. He suffered the injury in December 2011, and shockingly made it back for Week 1 the following season – less than nine months later. Peterson went on to have one of the best seasons for a running back ever – just falling short of the all-time single season rushing record, but still leading the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs as he won the Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. It wasn’t just the best comeback season of all time, it was one of the best seasons of all time – period. Barkley has looked up to Peterson his whole career – there’s no one better to try to emulate for him now.
Another Minnesota Vikings running back joins the list, and Barkley might have even more in common with him. Cook hit the ground running in the league after being drafted in the second round – breaking Peterson’s debut rushing record with 127 yards in his first game. After looking like a stud in his first three games of his career, Cook’s rookie season ended when he tore his ACL against the Detroit Lions Week 4. Cook didn’t have the immediate results that Peterson did, but since then he’s become one of the best backs in the entire league. He put up some of the best numbers at his position last season, rushing for 1557 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also got his big contract extension as well, signing a five year, $63 million dollar deal before the season that looks like a bargain now. Barkley will hope to join Cook as one of the league’s top, young backs as he returns from the same injury he suffered.
Death, taxes, and Gore churning out yards for an offense in the National Football League. Gore might’ve had one of the longest careers for a running back in league history, but it didn’t look like that would be the case while he was in college. As a member of the Miami Hurricanes, he suffered two different ACL injuries. The recent New York Jet tore his ACL twice in one year, once in March and once in October of 2003. For most running backs, that would be a big enough set back to accept the fact that it wasn’t meant to be – not Gore. With all the odds stacked against him, he recovered from his injuries, put up solid numbers his junior season and became the 65th overall pick of the draft. Since then, all Gore’s done is perform – he currently sits at third all time in rush yards. From two torn ACL’s to a hall of fame career – he’s not the first example people think of, but Gore’s success story is inspirational as any.