Adrian Peterson chat empowered Saquon Barkley in comeback journey

Davies

The question didn’t have time to exit the reporter’s lips before Saquon Barkley answered it.

“Any doubt in your mind that you’re going to be the same player?’’ the Giants 23-year-old star running back, who’s rehabbing from surgery to repair the torn ACL in his right knee, was asked.

Barkley’s response began as soon as he heard the words “any doubt’’ in the question.

“No doubt in my mind,’’ he said with a distinguishable trace of defiance in his tone. “I know that I’m going to be able to come out and be a better player. That’s what I’m going to challenge myself with.’’

Barkley, whose knee was mangled on a run the first play of the second quarter against the Bears on Sept. 20, revealed on a Zoom call with reporters — the first time he’s spoken publicly since the injury — that he’s experienced some “dark’’ moments while injured and away from his teammates as well as “tears’’ when the injury first occurred.

But he sounded resolute about the direction of his recovery and what he’ll look like when he comes out the other side of this.

Barkley said “a lot of people reached out’’ to him since the injury, including one particularly relevant person: Adrian Peterson.

“Someone who’s really important to me would be ‘AP,’ ’’ Barkley said of the Hall of Fame-bound running back who now plays with the Lions.

Giants

Adrian Peterson and Saquon Barkley
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg, Getty Images

Peterson famously tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee on Dec. 24, 2011 and — even more famously — led the NFL in rushing yardage (2,097) and carries (348) in 2012 and was voted the league’s MVP.

“Obviously, when you hear this injury, the first person that comes to your mind is the season that ‘AP’ had,’’ Barkley said. “He put me in contact with his trainer, [and] I was able to ask him a lot of questions. Also, I think the day before surgery, I got to chat with ‘AP’ for a very long time. I could see myself continuing to chat with him throughout.’’

Peterson, speaking to Detroit reporters right before Barkley’s surgery, said he offered some “advice’’ that centered around “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.

“A lot of it has to do with the mental aspect of it because it’s tough,’’ Peterson went on. “You’re out, you’re not able to do what you had planned on doing, what you had worked so hard during the offseason, during your training time, to do. Now you are watching. When you’re in that, it’s all about how you handle it.’’

Barkley, as we’ve all come to see, is a special athlete and a special person. Those two attributes are as good a reason as any why he’ll handle this and come out the other side of it at least as good, if not better, than he was when he got hurt.

“If I had to imagine what he’s going through right now, he has a chip on his shoulder and I can see him kind of obsessing over getting healthy and getting back,’’ Giants receiver Golden Tate said Thursday. “There’s no doubt that when he heals, he’s going to be a force — bigger, faster and stronger than he already was.’’

From Tate’s lips to the ears of Giants coach Joe Judge.

“This guy could have easily cashed it out, dropped his head and said ‘woe is me,’ ” Judge said Thursday. “[But he] has come in with a good attitude every day to do his rehab, to stay on track, to be there for his teammates, to continue being the captain and the leader that they selected him to be, and he’s done a tremendous job of that.’’

Barkley, who waited 40 days to have surgery to let the MCL heal first before the ACL was repaired, said he has “no target date in mind’’ for his return to the field.

Nor does Judge, who said, “This guy puts a lot of pressure on himself to be perfect, to be the best player he can be.’’

This is the best Barkley has been when healthy: 1,307 rushing yards, 721 receiving yards and 15 combined touchdowns in 16 games his rookie season, and then 1,003 rushing, 438 receiving and eight TDs in 13 games last season.

Giants safety Jabrill Peppers offered these poignant words after Barkley’s devastating injury: “Minor setback for a major comeback.’’

“I appreciate the words from Jabrill,’’ Barkley said Thursday.

Not as much as all of Barkley’s teammates are going to appreciate him coming back at full strength in 2021.

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