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Giants may not let Barkley play until season opener vs. Jags

August 22, 2018

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley works out individually while the rest of the team works out together during NFL football training camp, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The next time Saquon Barkley carries the ball in a game for the New York Giants may very well be the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The No. 2 overall pick in the draft returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since straining his left hamstring more than a week ago. The halfback took a few handoffs and caught a few passes in situational drills as the Giants prepared for Friday’s annual preseason game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Nothing was full speed. There was little hitting, if any.

Coach Pat Shurmur refused say whether Barkley will play Friday, but his chances seem remote after being off the field since Aug. 13.

“We’re going to be smart,” Shurmur said.

Barkley wants to play. He also knows hamstrings can be tricky injuries. His goal is to be ready when called, whether it’s this week, next week, or the season opener on Sept. 9.

“Personally, the way I feel, my body feels, I’ll be honest, I feel good, feel pretty good,” Barkley said. “I’ve been moving pretty well, but that’s what the trainers get paid for. They tell me stories all the time and I talk to other guys, even guys like O (Odell Beckham Jr.) that hurt their hamstring before. It’s when you feel 100 percent and that’s when you give it that push, boom, and it happens again as a setback.”

A hamstring injury caused Beckham to miss the first four games of his rookie season in 2014.

Barkley was impressive in the preseason opener against Cleveland, taking the opening handoff and running 39 yards to help set up a field goal. He did not play against the Lions last Friday after being hurt four days earlier. His only other opportunity to play would be against the Patriots in the preseason finale on Aug. 30. Most coaches don’t use their starters.

Barkley isn’t worried about the missed time because he has been at every practice taking the mental reps.

“In college I didn’t really practice that much, so I guess it’s kind of very similar,” the 21-year-old Penn State product said. “I’m just doing more stuff on my own conditioning, but in college I didn’t really take crazy loads in practice, so it’s kind of similar to me. So I guess that kind of helped me prepare for moments like this.”

The annual bragging rights game with the Jets will give Barkley a chance to talk with Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the third pick overall. The two got to know each other during the draft process.

“I wasn’t a big Sam Darnold fan after they beat us in the Rose Bowl game my sophomore year, but that’s just a competitive thing,” Barkley said. “We joke around about that all the time. I got to know him a little more. Actually, we were on the whole flight together going to the rookie premiere, so definitely got to know him a lot more.”

Barkley also got a chance to know Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb, the fifth pick.

“I want to see those guys succeed,” Barkley said. “I don’t want to see Sam succeed much this week against us, but I wish nothing but success for all those guys. I hope they have great careers.”

Barkley’s regular-season career probably will start against the Jaguars, whether or not he plays another down in the preseason.

“Obviously I have to continue to get better with the mental part of the game,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and say I’m 100 percent perfect with the playbook like I’m some vet and I’ve been playing in the league for 10 years. No, I’m still a rookie, I still have to get better in that area, but I definitely have a lot more time on my hands to continue to get better with the mental part.”

(Corrects 14th graf to show Chubb was the fifth pick in the draft.)

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