The miracle comeback by Saquon Barkley now seems like a matter of when -- not if. But the "when" is not likely to be this Sunday.
It's much more likely to be next Thursday in New England instead.
While no one would officially close the door on Barkley playing this Sunday at home against the Minnesota Vikings -- especially since Giants head coach Pat Shurmur won't slam the door shut -- a source familiar with the team's plans said their real target is the Oct. 10 game in New England.
The Giants seem to be amazed, but not completely surprised, by the speed of Barkley's recovery from the high ankle sprain he suffered in Tampa on Sept. 22.
But he even though he certainly looks healthy and ready, the team is expected to take a very cautious approach with their star, the source said, especially with the Giants facing two tough games against two Top 6 defenses in a five-day span.
Meanwhile, Barkley wasn't giving up anything about his plans when he met with the media on Thursday after he did some running and cutting, while working with trainers on the sidelines during practice. He has been determined all along to beat what he was told was a 6-8 week recovery timetable, but that possibility seemed more likely after he was finally able to run full speed on Thursday and reported that his ankle "felt good."
Good enough to play? To Barkley, it probably does feel that way. But he insisted he's letting the Giants' doctors take the lead on that.
"I'm a competitor and definitely want to be out there for my team," Barkley said. "But when you say team, it's not just only in this building or on the football field. I have to trust my team in there. I think we have some of the best, if not the best, training staff starting with (Senior Vice President of Medical Services) Ronnie Barnes, all the way down. I'll just continue to listen to them, have faith in them, and continue to do what I can to help my team win games whenever I'm able to come back."
Earlier in the day, Shurmur again refused to rule out Barkley for Sunday, and insisted it was a realistic possibility. He even indicated that Barkley could return Sunday without practicing all week -- though it seems highly unlikely he'd be cleared without returning to practice on at least a limited basis first.
A decision on Barkley's status is expected on Friday, when the Giants issue their final injury report before their game. It's possible they'd list Barkley as "questionable" or "doubtful," but that would likely be a bit of gamesmanship especially if he doesn't practice on Friday. Most likely, he is going to be officially declared "out."
When he is, that will buy him a few more days to get ready for a game in which he's really going to be needed against the defending Super Bowl champions in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots have the NFL's No. 1 defense, and the idea of facing a rookie quarterback on a short week has to be very appealing on its own merits to a mastermind coach like Bill Belichick.
Without Barkley, it's hard to imagine the Giants having much of a chance in that game.
But, if all goes according to the Giants' plan, Barkley will be there.