New York Giants' Saquon Barkley 'making progress' but won't be rushed back

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Saquon Barkley's rehabilitation from a serious knee injury has taken the running back from Arizona to Los Angeles this offseason. Most recently, he has been in New Jersey, working out at the New York Giants facility.

It has been almost seven months of grueling work to get Barkley's knee ready for the 2021 NFL season. Session after session. Workout after workout. Physical therapy, massage, isometrics. If it's going to help, Barkley has probably tried it.

After his injury in a Week 2 loss to Chicago last season, Barkley is "making good progress" following ACL surgery and a meniscus repair to his right knee, according to a source with direct knowledge of his rehab. There have been no significant setbacks since the October surgery.

Barkley is sprinting and jumping, impressing those around him, even if the current plan does not include him being involved in the offseason on-field workouts with the team. He is not expected to be a full participant in practices early in training camp. If he's outside at practice during organized team activities and minicamp this spring, it will be mostly to watch.

There isn't anything specific delaying the timeline or doubts about his long-term prognosis.

"We fully expect him to be as good as new," Giants owner John Mara said earlier this offseason.

The Giants are taking a cautious approach with the centerpiece of their offense and playing the long-range game.

Giants management has made it clear this offseason they expect Barkley to be with the organization for many more years, which means eventually there will be a long-term deal. Barkley, the Giants' No. 2 overall pick in 2018, recently had the fifth-year option picked up.

With the future a large part of the equation, New York will be focusing on Barkley's best interests and career longevity when it comes to integrating him back into the full-time mix. That probably won't be until sometime during the regular season, even if the running back might want it to happen sooner.

The idea is to bring Barkley along slowly to make sure he's healthy for the duration of the 17-game season, and hopefully a postseason. So what if he is not on the field taking his usual 85% of snaps Week 1 against the Denver Broncos? Concentrating on the first few games would be shortsighted.

Having Barkley, 24, return to his rookie season form as well as the same usage in the first few weeks of the 2021 season was never realistic. He is coming back from a serious injury that was more than an ACL tear. There was also the meniscus and MCL damage. Those ailments have also healed according to plan, the source added.

It's hardly a coincidence the Giants have loaded up on insurance policies at the position this offseason. They made Devontae Booker one of their first free-agent signings because of his three-down ability. They then drafted Gary Brightwell out of the University of Arizona in the sixth round and recently signed veteran Corey Clement and claimed Ryquell Armstead off waivers.

Contingency plans are necessary in case Barkley is not ready come September, or if the team decides to bring him along slowly by limiting or holding him out the first few weeks to assure he is at 100% and no less.

As of last month, Barkley was on track to be ready for the start of the season, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. But nothing is a guarantee until he gets through full practices this summer.

And that likely won't be until later in training camp, if at all. We're probably going to have to get used to Barkley standing around and watching against his will, itching to get back on the field.

It's just going to be important to remember it is a long NFL season. Games are not won or lost in the spring and summer.