Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports
CONFIRMED – SAQUON BARKLEY DONE FOR THE SEASON…
As expected, the New York Giants officially confirmed that running back Saquon Barkley tore the ACL in his right knee against the Chicago Bears and will be lost for the remainder of the 2020 NFL season. The NFL Network is reporting that in addition to tearing his ACL, Barkley partially tore his meniscus and strained his MCL, the latter not needing surgical repair. Barkley is expected to undergo surgery in 2-4 weeks once swelling/inflammation goes down.
The NFL Network is also reporting that wide receiver Sterling Shepard suffered a turf toe injury against the Bears and is expected to miss “some time.” Turf toe injuries can take weeks to come back from and usually linger the rest of the season.
GIANTS BRING IN DEVONTA FREEMAN…
The New York Giants are bringing in free agent running back Devonta Freeman as a possible roster fill in for the loss of running back Saquon Barkley. Freeman is currently going through the team’s COVID-19 testing protocol.
The 28-year old, 5’8”, 206-pound Freeman was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. In six years with the Falcons, Freeman played in 77 regular-season games with 59 starts, rushing 951 times for 3,972 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and 32 touchdowns. He also caught 257 passes for 2,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. Freeman missed most of the 2018 season with knee and groin injuries. His productivity fell to 656 yards on 184 carries (3.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in 2019. The Falcons cut Freeman in March 2020.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2020 JOE JUDGE PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears (the video is also available on YouTube):
Q: We saw the news about Saquon tearing his knee. How do you feel like this impacts you guys and the structure of your offense going forward? Obviously he was going to be a very big part of that. You can use him in a lot of different ways and now you remove that piece. I’m curious what you think this means for the offense.
A: First off, losing a player who is such a good teammate and someone who’s such a hard worker on the field will impact the team in a lot of ways. Saquon is a tremendous player. We have even more respect for him as a person. I personally hate it for this guy, as hard as he’s worked and as much impact as he’s had for this team. I know our team has similar feelings as well. I talked to a number of players already. I would say this, in terms of how we game plan and scheme, our focus will always change week by week. Regardless of how our roster looks, we’re always going to do what’s best for the team going forward to match up with the specific opponent. The guys that are on our roster, we’re going to have to find ways to put them in positions of strength and find ways to match up with our opponent favorably.
Q: Besides a physical loss, is this a major emotional loss? Losing a guy like Saquon, coaches always say next man up, but I don’t know if it’s possible to have a next man up when it’s Saquon Barkley involved
A: I think it’s emotional for any of your players. You know how hard these guys work. You know how important it is to them. Not to mention how it impacts directly their own lives and their families’ lives. There’s definitely some emotion attached to losing any player. Saquon’s obviously no different. He’s been voted a captain on this team, he’s very important to the team, he speaks for the team. He always holds the best interest of the team first. He exemplifies what it is on and off the field for us. We’re going to miss having him on the grass, but we’re going to keep him involved as much as we can going forward.
Q: I know you made Wayne Gallman inactive yesterday. I’m just curious the decision that went into that. How do you balance him and Dion’s role with maybe looking in free agency to fill the gap with Saquon out?
A: In terms of the active/inactive conversation, that always goes into different sides of the ball as well. You only have so many guys you’re allowed at the game, so we have to look at the total role. The way the offensive game plan is put together, the way the kicking game pieces fit. There’s a lot of things that go into that. In terms of what we’re doing roster wise, we’re always looking at who’s available on the street anyway. We’re always looking at setting up workouts for free agents, just to get them in the program and get a look at them. We have the flex rules with the practice squad. That will impact some of the guys we have in our program anyway. We’re exploring all options right now.
Q: Nobody has come out and said this, is Saquon out for the year?
A: Yes, Saquon will be out for the year.
Q: After the 0-2 and losing Saquon, how do you kind of get everybody back on track quickly?
A: Our guys are on track, they are really focused. We’ve had good productive meetings today. The culture we want to have in this building is the one we have. That’s to go to work every day. Every week is a new week, everybody’s 0-0 right now going into week 3. We have a good opponent coming to town right now with the Niners. They’re going to give us a tremendous amount of challenges that we have to be ready to face. We’re focused on getting ready to work. We’ll be on the field Wednesday and we’ll be on the field practicing.
Q: How do you expect Saquon to come back from this adversity?
A: First off, I’m not a doctor. I’m sure they are going to give him the best medical care possible. This guy is a tremendously hard worker. I can tell you right now I already know he is going to work as hard as possible. The only thing I was able to share with Saquon. I was a non-athlete, I tore my ACL. I was able to get back on the field. It didn’t really affect in any way my play. I wasn’t very good to begin with. I would just say in terms of, you look at some of the other guys around the league who have been able to come back from ACL’s and have tremendous seasons those next years out. I think you can focus on there’s a lot of top athletes and with the medical care they get right now. This is a young guy who is very physically gifted. There are good doctors out there, he is going to get the best medical care possible. We have a great training staff to help rehab him along the way. We’re going to do everything in our position as coaches to keep him involved mentally sharp Then when we finally get a chance to get him back on the field physically, obviously we’re going to gear everything around his specific plan to get him going full speed at the right rate. I tell you what, I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again, I won’t fall asleep on 26, it’s going to be a hell of a story.
Q: There’s a report that Shep has a turf toe injury. I don’t know if you can confirm that or whatever you can say about his status.
A: I have to check back with Ronnie (Barnes). We have a number of guys seeing doctors today like they do after every Monday. Some for normal bumps and bruises, some for other things that may have limited their action in the game yesterday. He did have a lower limb injury yesterday in the game. Tried to come back early in the second half and wasn’t able to finish. We’ll see where that is right now. I can’t speak for Shep in terms of how he feels. I haven’t been able to sit down with him and talk with him directly about that yet. I’m going to check with our training staff after this meeting and see where things are at going forward.
Q: There was the fourth down play where you kept the offense on the field. It looked like Nick Gates never put his hand on the ball. Just curious what happened there.
A: I think he was out there over-communicating looking for a check.
Q: You guys have been grinding for a while now. You get two weeks in, you come as close as you did yesterday, rallying through emotional highs and lows. Does it get to a point from your perspective where you need to see tangible results. Are you seeing those results that you can actually look at with your coaches and players and say, ‘look, I know we’re not winning these games but this is what you’re doing properly’? How does that translate to getting that first win?
A: Winning is all about doing your job well for 60 minutes with the right fundamentals. Knowing the assignment and technique you should play every play with. There’s no magic wand, there’s no secret formula. It’s about doing your job well. I would say this, there’s a tremendous amount of evidence we have been able to show our players on tape to where they can see the improvement coming along. There’s some things on tape that they can very visibly see that this is what puts us behind, we can’t make these mistakes. We have to handle better the way we’ve practiced and the way we prepared for it. I’m very pleased with the progress our guys are making. Obviously you come out of a tough loss of any week, Monday is always a frustrating day. The gear is to move forward. I think one thing we have to keep in mind is the NFL is really a league of extremes. Week by week, somebody is the best team in the world or the worst team in the world. We have to make sure we stay steady on our course of having daily improvement, which leads to weekly improvement, which ultimately will make us a better team by the end of the season. That’s our goal, to improve every week as a team and keep everyone on the right track building this program.
Q: With Saquon out, do you think Daniel Jones feels this will make him think he needs to do more? If that’s the case, do you as the coach need to remind him you have to play within yourself? There’s nothing you can do to try to be a hero because the best player on offense is now out.
A: I can’t speak for Daniel and how he feels right now, to be honest with you. However, I will say, we have 53 guys on our roster, we expect everyone to do their job to the best of their ability every single week. I don’t think anyone has to do anything outside their realm. They have to do exactly what their job is and do it to the best of their ability.
Q: What do you make of the fact that so many players got hurt in Week 2? So many tissue injuries. Do you think that’s related to the offseason that we just saw here? Connected to that, I wanted to ask you about the Niners complaining about the turf at MetLife Stadium? I’m wondering if you guys noticed anything in Week 1 when you played the Steelers?
A: I’ll start with the turf question. Our guys have been on that turf. We had camp in the stadium, that was our home for that month or so. We had our players on the turf every day for some kind of walk thru competitive practice. Leading up to the game last week, not a single player said anything negative along the way to me at all about any of the facilities, specifically the turf. I’ve been on it myself, obviously with the team. I think it’s a good surface. It’s our home and we’re excited to play there next Sunday. In terms of the soft tissue injuries around the league, there’s probably different factors that go into that. I’d probably be out of place right now to give any blanket statement for the league. There was definitely a concern with us as coaches coming in without preseason as to what position it would put our players in. We obviously put a large focus on our own conditioning. We put a large focus on our own recovery. Based on how we train these players and get their bodies ready for not only the physical contact that’s in the game but also the conditioning their muscles need to sustain and recover. One thing we talked about as a team last week, especially us coming off a shorter week, is the recovery from Week 1 to Week 2. Again, no one’s had the opportunity to be through any type of full game until Week 1. There’s a cumulative effect that happens with your body, it’s just natural. The shock your body goes through coming out of any game, it takes a couple days to recover anyway. If you haven’t been through that kind of stress and physical demand, it takes a little bit longer to recover. That being said, there’s a lot of injuries that conditioning has absolutely nothing to do with. What Saquon went through yesterday, that’s just something that happens. That doesn’t have anything to do with conditioning or how hard he trained or anything to do with that. That’s just an injury that sometimes happens. It’s very unfortunate to everybody involved. The soft tissue stuff are things you really have to look out for. The pulls, some of the tears of the hamstrings and quads, some of the things of that nature. The Achilles and things along those lines. We were very careful with our players throughout training camp. Made sure we built their tolerance and get their bodies’ endurance ready for the rigors of a season. More importantly, get them ready to recover from game one to game two. That’s something we put a lot of focus in with how we train our guys in practice.
Q: What have they told you about the likelihood that Saquon is able to get back to 100 percent? If there is sort of a timeline of when that may be?
A: They haven’t told me anything. What I told you earlier, he’s done for the year, that’s the only timeline I’ve worked off of right now. Everybody is unique in these situations. That’s one thing I can tell you from personal experience as well as working with other athletes that have gone through this. Everybody’s body recovers differently. I would say this, his body is in a phenomenal spot, that it’s going to be able to recover very well with the treatment they will give him. That being said, I don’t know what his body is going to go through, no one does. I just know this guy is committed. He is going to work really hard and he is going to do everything he can to get back. We all have full confidence in the medical care he is going to get. We all know this guy’s work ethic is going to carry him on through. We look forward to getting him back on the grass obviously next season. We’re excited to get him back at that point.
Q: Where do you get the explosive plays without him? You haven’t had a ton of them already in the first few games, but who do you need to step into that role and make those big plays?
A: Without giving you some sort of blanket answer, it’s going to come from everybody on our roster. Every offensive player has to be ready to step up and make plays when their number is called. Daniel’s job is to distribute the ball, I’m just going to keep it pretty simple with that. As coaches, we have to find inventive ways of getting the ball to our guys in space.
Q: You talked about everybody needing to do their jobs. Obviously one of the groups is the offensive line. Did you see progress from your offensive line on Sunday as opposed to what we saw on Monday?
A: Absolutely, yes, absolutely. I thought they did a better job of getting downhill in the running game, getting the run started, getting a hat on a hat. There’s obviously some continuity that’s forming with that unit. Andrew and Cam, both these guys have seen the top pass rushers in the league the last couple of weeks. They are going to continue seeing them over the next couple of weeks. You can definitely see improvement with those guys. They are rising to the challenge for us. We’re far from a finished product right now. We have to keep that in mind as a team. It’s about the daily improvement going forward. Yes, I definitely saw improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 with our offensive line.
Q: Obviously I know you’re not going to say exactly what you’re going to do to replace Saquon. Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis are the next running backs in line. What do you like about those guys, what are their strengths, what gives you confidence that they can be part of the solution to this problem?
A: I say it all the time, we have confidence in every player on our roster. Wayne and Dion are definitely guys that will factor in. We’ll work to their strengths, they are two different types of backs. Both of them have a degree of toughness. Wayne’s got that long speed, get him ranging out and get him really moving. Dion’s got that real good short area quickness and burst to get going. He does a great job of finding small seams and getting through the hole. They are both different guys, we’re going to have to work with what they do well to give them an opportunity to be successful. Coming from the backs and the fullback Eli Penny, who has got some ball handling experience in the past. We have Rod Smith on the practice squad right now. There’s a number of players in our program we are going to be working with. We’ll see where the future takes us elsewhere throughout this long season in the NFL. There’s always a lot of roster movement.
Q: I’m not suggesting there is any kind of hot seat or anything like that. I would be an idiot to do that. For you, your coaches, your players, the organization, do you need to get a win?
A: In the NFL we’re only paid for production, so every week we need to get a win.
THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:
The Giants have lost five consecutive games to NFC North teams since 2018.
The Giants fall to 0-2 for the fourth consecutive season and for the seventh time in eight years.
RB Saquon Barkley did not catch a pass in the game, ending at 30 his Giants-record streak for the most consecutive games with a reception by a running back to start a career in a Giants uniform.
It was the first time in QB Daniel Jones 14 career starts that Jones did not throw a touchdown pass. His streak with at least one scoring throw in 13 consecutive games to start his career is the fourth-longest in NFL history, behind Kurt Warner (23), Baker Mayfield (17), and Brad Johnson (15). Jones was stopped two games shy of Y.A. Tittle’s franchise record of 15 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The players are off on Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday. The assistant coaches will be available to the media on Tuesday.