NY Giants’ Saquon Barkley hurdles over biggest question he faces in 2021

Saquon Barkley didn’t commit this week to returning for the NY Giants’ season opener, as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL 

NY Giants running back Saquon Barkley might not be ready to juke a defender or hurdle them in the open-field, but Wednesday sidestepped the biggest question he faces as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL ahead of a pivotal third NFL season.

Earlier this offseason, the NY Giants made the easy decision to pick up Barkley’s fifth-year option, but when asked whether he would play in 2021 without the security of a long-term contract, the former No. 2 overall draft pick sidestepped the reporter’s query.

“When it comes to the contract situation,” Barkley told reporters Wednesday. “That’s something that’s not even crossing my mind. I have an amazing agent; those are things that I have conversations with her about, but for me right now, only thing I’m focusing on is coming here and working my butt off to get ready as soon as I can, so when I’m out there, I’m not just 100 percent, I am 110 percent and I can perform to the best of my ability for my team.”

Both sides clearly have a leg to stand on, as the NY Giants would strongly prefer to see Barkley prove he is the same game-altering talent he was prior to tearing his ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, and can show an ability to stay on the field after missing 18 games combined the past two seasons due to injury. Conversely, Barkley has every motivation to wait to get on the field until he’s given some sort of long-term assurances.

To the NY Giants’ credit though, owner John Mara previously expressed a desire to keep Barkley in a Giants uniform for the long-haul.

“We fully expect him to be as good as new,” Mara said of Barkley, back on March 31. “I mean, if anybody is going to spend 100 percent of his efforts to rehab, it will be Saquon just knowing what type of motivation he has and desire he has. But we’re not in any hurry to do that at this point in time, particularly after the money we just spent. But listen, I said it at the end of the season and I’ll say it again, we hope he’s going to be a Giant for life and at the appropriate time we’ll start those discussions”

Through the first two-plus seasons of his career, Barkley has averaged 4.7 yards per carry, while rushing for 2,344 yards and 17 touchdowns in 31 games.

As the NY Giants prepare to wrap up mandatory minicamp Thursday, Barkley has yet to take the practice field this spring, but has been rigorously rehabbing with the team’s medical and training staff behind the scenes.

Even so, Barkley says that he hasn’t set a target return date, nor committed to Week 1 against the Denver Broncos yet, either.

“There’s not really anything that crosses my mind,” Barkley told reporters. “Only thing for me is just work and just try to be ready for my team, whenever that is, and like I said, I’m very blessed and in a great place where I feel like, you never know, other places and different circumstances, you feel like you’re being rushed. But I don’t think; I know, from Coach Judge from the training room from top to bottom from my teammates that I know that they want to see me healthy, but they want me out there when they know I can be out there.”

This is probably the best approach both for the NY Giants and for Barkley, given the severity of his injury and the risk posed by rushing back to action too soon.

Barkley, though, is one of the reasons for optimism surrounding the NY Giants entering 2021.

The offense Barkley will be returning to has the chance to be a far more prolific offense than the one he took the field with in 2020 after the organization signed wide receiver Kenny Golladay and drafted Kadarius Toney in the first-round to bolster quarterback Daniel Jones’ supporting cast.

Matt Lombardo is FanSided’s National NFL Insider and writes Between The Hash Marks each Wednesday. Email Matt: Matt.Lombardo@FanSided.com, Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattLombardoNFL