New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley cleared to play in season opener, source says

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The wait is over for Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants.

Barkley was medically cleared and will be ready for the season opener Sunday against the Denver Broncos, a source told ESPN on Saturday.

Barkley, who tore the ACL in his right knee in Week 2 last season, is officially listed as questionable.

Tight end Evan Engram (calf) is out Sunday.

The only way Barkley wouldn't be ready come game time would be if something unexpected happened between now and 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday.

"I wouldn't go out there if I didn't feel confident that I could protect myself and be helpful for the team," Barkley said Friday.

With the Giants proceeding with extra caution throughout Barkley's rehab while taking a long-range approach, the Pro Bowl running back was up against the calendar in recent weeks. Everything needed to go perfectly.

But the summer went smoothly and Barkley passed all the requisite tests, including practices with contact this week and last, to be deemed ready for the opener. Friday was the final obstacle, and he said afterward there were no setbacks.

"I mean, practice and the game [are] totally different, but I've been having a really good week of practice just getting back out there trusting the knee, getting my football conditioning back in the flow of things, getting a feel for the run game, for the pass game, for pass-pickup and all that," Barkley said.

Barkley is still expected to be eased into action, with the Giants having two games in five days to start the season. Barkley will likely split time with offseason acquisition Devontae Booker in the backfield early on.

After Sunday's opener, the Giants play again Thursday night on the road against the Washington Football Team.

Barkley underwent surgery Oct. 30, 2020, to repair the ACL and damage to his meniscus. He did not practice in the spring and began the summer on the physically unable to perform list before being activated Aug. 9. Barkley did not appear in a preseason game or participate in live drills until less than two weeks ago, wearing a red, no-contact jersey in New England.

Still, he has been moving well and without any restrictions.

"I think he looks great," quarterback Daniel Jones said after Wednesday's practice in full pads. "I think he's done a great job following what the trainers and the doctors have told him to do. He looks good practicing."

Barkley's first taste of contact came in a padded practice Sept. 2 at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The Giants had another practice with pads Wednesday. He came through without any problems.

He had to endure three straight practices this week to receive final clearance Friday.

"His work on the field is very promising," Giants coach Joe Judge said before Friday's workout. "He's done a lot of things we needed to see."

The Giants offense will now be close to whole in time for their opener. It's a far cry from the summer, when Barkley, wide receivers Kenny Golladay (hamstring) and Kadarius Toney (COVID-19/hamstring) and tight ends Kyle Rudolph (foot) and Engram (calf) were all sidelined.

The New York defense is also expected to be whole. Cornerback Adoree' Jackson will be available Sunday after being listed as questionable with an ankle injury.

The Broncos have been preparing as if Barkley would play.

"Yeah, he's obviously eligible to play," coach Vic Fangio said earlier in the week. "He's on the roster. We're under the assumption that he will play, and until we know otherwise, that's the assumption we'll take. He's a hell of a player obviously, and I'm sure they'll play him if he's ready to go."