Don’t expect Saquon Barkley to be Superman off the bat

We yearn to see Super Saquon. Such an easy young man to root for and cheer. Such a generational talent. Such an inspirational comeback unfolding. Such a handsome face of a franchise. Born to star off Broadway.

Joe Judge ramped up Barkley’s final test on Wednesday, a limited padded practice designed to acclimate him to the thud of contact. The expectation is that the green light for the home opener Sunday against the Broncos will be flashing once Judge and medical guru Ronnie Barnes are convinced Barkley will be under no jeopardy in the heat of NFL battle.

“He looks great,” Daniel Jones said.

“He looks great,” Kyle Rudolph said.

Well of course, put Saquon Barkley in a blue 26 jersey and let him play football with his friends, he is always going to look great.

And there is precedent for The Mother Of All Comebacks. Adrian Peterson returned from his torn ACL and MCL in less than nine months and rushed for 2,097 yards — 1,019 yards after contact — and 12 TDs to win MVP honors in 2012.

Adrian Peterson was Superman.

“I’m not Superman,” Saquon Barkley said back in December. “I never viewed myself as Superman.”

For his sake, and even for ours, we shouldn’t expect Saquon Barkley to play the lead in Superman II … at least not yet. It would be unfair to Barkley, following his October ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair, that just because Peterson was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, more powerful than a locomotive, he will as well.

Discretion is the better part of valor here, which means there is no reason for Saquon Barkley to come out Saquads blazing on Opening Day, especially with the Washington Football Team looming on Thursday night in Week 2.

I’d set the Over/Under number on Saquon Barkley touches, running and receiving, at 12.

“We want to make sure we make the best decision for him long term,” Judge said.

We have learned enough about him by now to know this hardly means Saquon Barkley won’t be trying his damndest to be Be Like A.P., Be Like Superman.

Rudolph was in Minnesota when Peterson burst past and through the army of naysayers. through the naysayers.

“That was one of the first things [Barkley] talked to me about when I got here,” Rudolph told The Post. “It was just, ‘What did he do? What was his work ethic like? How did he approach August, getting ready for the season?’ I try to pass on as much wisdom as I can to Saquon. Him and I have been together a lot through both of our rehabs, and he’s pushed me every day and made me go harder just to try to keep up with him.”

Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) during practice
Saquon Barkley is likely to start off slow as he returns from ACL reconstruction this season.
Bill Kostroun

Rudolph, back from his foot surgery, is an eyewitness to how great players will themselves back to form.

“He has the mindset of a great player and a leader,” Rudolph said, “and he wants to lead by example, he wants to be out there … and to see a guy who’s already done it in Adrian, and watch Say work just as hard, it’s fun to watch, and it’s inspiring.”

Rudolph to this day marvels at how Peterson — 17 carries for 84 yards and 2 TDs in Week 1, and his first 100-yard game in Week 4 — carried the 2012 Vikings into the playoffs.

“I think one of the most incredible things was what he was able to do from Week 5 to Week 17,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that the first four weeks of the year he was on kind of a pitch count, and I don’t think he hit 100 yards until Week [4]. And from Week [4] on, it wasn’t a matter if he was gonna run for 100, it was if he was gonna get 200 or not. … We went as Adrian went as an offense.”

Peterson was 27 when he beat the odds with a vengeance. Barkley is 24. So at least there’s that.

“You’ve got to have one believer,” Peterson said toward the end of his comeback season. “I’m sure there weren’t many out there, but I definitely believed I could come back and be better than I was before.”

The lion inside him roars loud enough for Barkley to believe he can, or will, one day return as the king of beasts. Perhaps he will convince himself that he can, or will, indeed be better than ever.

It’s the only way for him to believe.

Peterson offered Barkley advice the day before his surgery.

“Just wrapping your mind around the situation for what it is, just accepting it and focusing on the plan to get better and to come back and be better than you were before,” Peterson told Detroit media last season.

Barkley hasn’t played in a meaningful game since last Sept. 20. He carried the ball 19 times in 2020, caught six passes. Of course there will be rust. Of course there will be hesitation. He has little chemistry with his much-maligned offensive line. Barkley has vowed there will be no fear. But he’s human. Of course there will be anxiety.

At some point, and hopefully sooner rather than later, darting through holes and cutting on a dime and absorbing and enduring the violence of the sport and catching passes in the flat from Jones will be like riding a bike for Saquon Barkley.

For now, for his sake, and even for ours, let’s not dress him up in a Superman cape just yet.

New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates, the celebrity gossip site and the entertainment site

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