EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Saquon Barkley's recovery from ACL reconstruction and a meniscus repair in his right knee, following a Week 2 injury that ended the New York Giants running back's 2020 season, is on schedule.
Barkley is back in New Jersey and rehabbing at the Giants' facility. He spent almost a month in Los Angeles after surgery by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
During his first interview with reporters since the procedure, Barkley explained that the MCL in his right knee healed on its own, without surgery, and that doctors were able to do a full repair on the meniscus.
"They were able to save my meniscus," Barkley said. He later added: "Which is a good thing."
A partial meniscus repair could have left Barkley susceptible to more problems down the line. Instead, Barkley was optimistic about his future.
He wouldn't put a timetable on his return but was clear about his belief that he would be as good or better physically than prior to the injury.
"No doubt in my mind!" Barkley said.
Barkley said he was told that the likelihood of getting back to 100% would be determined by how he attacked the rehab. It was especially important for him to be smart with it in the first six or seven weeks because of the meniscus.
"Then at the end of the day, sometimes they see when you do ACL reconstruction, your ACL becomes 10 times stronger, to be honest," he said.
For now, he just wants to get a little better each day -- take the small wins, as he described it on multiple occasions. This isn't something he can rush.
Barkley mentioned consulting with Detroit Lions running back Adrian Peterson and his trainer in the early part of the journey. Peterson has become the standard for ACL comebacks, especially for running backs. He topped 2,000 yards rushing in 2012, a season that began eight months after Peterson underwent reconstructive knee surgery.
Barkley is hoping to follow in those footsteps, but he has to listen to his body and the medical professionals.
"I'm not Superman," he said. "I never viewed myself as Superman."
Barkley is eligible for a contract extension this offseason for the first time. Running backs such as Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara all signed new contracts this past offseason, after their third professional seasons.
"Don't really focus on it. Not really focused on money or anything right now," Barkley said. "I'm really just focused on coming in every single day and be 1 percent better. Whenever that day is, I can come back and be ready for my team."
In the meantime, Barkley has watched closely as the Giants' running game has improved in his absence. With an offensive line that is jelling and the emergence of running back Wayne Gallman, the Giants have the eighth-ranked rushing attack since Week 3.
Barkley had 19 rushes for 34 yards and no touchdowns before injuring his knee while trying to get outside on a run against the Chicago Bears.
"I wish I was able to be part of it," Barkley said of the Giants' current success. They have won three straight and are in first place in the NFC East.
"I'm still part of it, to be completely honest," he said. "That is my mindset. I'm still part of it in a way. To see those guys open up those holes and see the way Wayne is running is amazing. It has really helped the team."