EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley's return from a torn ACL in his right knee has been difficult. It took him 11-plus months of grueling work to make his goal of being ready for Week 1 a reality.
His next challenge is to be on the field for Week 2. Not because there was any kind of setback in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Denver Broncos, but the visiting Giants play Thursday (8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network) on short rest against the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field.
Consider this uncharted territory. Barkley has returned from injury before. He has played on a short week as well. But he'll be doing both at once, and with two games in five days, it remains to be seen how the Giants will use him after he finished with 10 carries for 26 yards and one reception in Week 1.
Coach Joe Judge said Monday there weren't any unforeseen issues for Barkley.
"I would say unless the medical team tells us something else, our intention is to keep on progressing this guy throughout the season and play him ... include him in the game plan as we work through this next day and a half."
The Giants had a walk-through on Monday and have a light practice scheduled Tuesday in this condensed week.
Barkley will almost certainly have a limited workload against Washington after playing 28 of 59 offensive snaps (47.5%) on Sunday. Similar or lighter usage seems likely Thursday.
"When you're playing in the NFL, you get a sense of how many days you have to recover," former Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said this weekend on New York's GameDay on 98.7 ESPN NY. "So you get a routine of -- on this day I should feel like this, on this day I should feel like that, right around this day I should be good. When you get that game thrown at you real quickly, it's all you can do when you're not coming back from a major injury to get out there and feel good."
Barkley was cut down on his opening carry Sunday and bounced back to his feet. He said he "felt pretty good" after the contest and would "take it day by day."
It was hard to tell if he had that trademark explosion in his first game back, because there wasn't much room to run against a strong Denver defense. He also dropped the only pass where there might have been some open space to operate.
He said he was generally content with the way his return played out, at least physically, but don't even mention the knee as an excuse for the results.
"I don't want the theme to be, 'Oh, the run game's not going because Saquon's knee. He's still getting right [coming] back from his knee,'" Barkley said. "That's not the mindset I'm not going to have. I'm not going to use it as a crutch.
"The gig is up -- I'm back on the field."