Barkley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a Week 2 loss at Chicago. He had surgery in late October, giving him almost 11 months to rehab and be available for the start of the 2021 season.
The procedure included ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair. It was deemed a success at the time.
The Giants also picked up the fifth-year option on Barkley's rookie contract Wednesday, the team announced. With the move, Barkley's 2022 salary, worth about $7.2 million according to OverTheCap.com, becomes fully guaranteed.
Barkley told the AP Pro Football Podcast in February that his surgically repaired knee was doing well, but he would not set a possible return date at that time.
Barkley and the Giants have been optimistic from the start that the team's top offensive player would return at full strength for this season. Coach Joe Judge told him it's "gonna be a hell of a story."
Barkley has been training primarily in Los Angeles and Arizona this offseason. He has spent time rehabbing alongside former teammate and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who also is rehabbing an ACL tear.
The Giants have been working under the assumption that Barkley would get back to 100 percent. Still, they allowed backup Wayne Gallman to walk in free agency and replaced him with Devontae Booker because of his three-down capabilities.
Barkley was helped off the field and later carted to the locker room. He had four rushes for 28 yards before exiting. His season ended with 19 rushes for 34 yards and no touchdowns.
It was the second straight injury-shortened season for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Barkley played 13 games and just barely topped 1,000 yards rushing in 2019 as he dealt with a pesky high ankle sprain. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, when he led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 total touchdowns.