Giants rookie RB Saquon Barkley takes first NFL preseason carry 39 yards vs. Browns l USA TODAY Sports photo
Giants rookie RB Saquon Barkley takes first NFL preseason carry 39 yards vs. Browns l USA TODAY Sports photo

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — If the preseason was the playoffs, perhaps Saquon Barkley would find a way to play this week.

"To be completely honest, as a competitor, I'd find a way," Barkley said on Thursday following the wrapup of the New York Giants' joint practices with the Detroit Lions. "I want to play tomorrow, but I don't know the game-plan, to be honest. I just know that I'm day-to-day, and taking it step-by-step."

Tomorrow would be Friday's Giants-Lions game at Ford Field, and it's not clear if Barkley would play because of a hamstring "tweak" he suffered on Monday in New York. But reading the tea leaves, from everything head coach Pat Shurmur and Barkley said this week, we'd venture to say it's not likely he dresses for that one.

What's the gain? Sure, Barkley could use more reps — he had only six in his preseason debut last weekend against the Cleveland Browns, and he ran the ball four times on them. Barkley is expected to be used in a variety of ways, and getting that feel, especially in the passing game, feels like a need.

That's not much work so far with the Week 1 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars only 24 days away. Barkley was on the sideline for all three days of the joint practices but only did work off to the side and continued his rehab.

But is sitting him out the remainder of the preseason going to cost him that much? PFW asked Barkley if he felt the need to get more time in any of the three remaining exhibition games to feel sufficiently ready for the regular-season opener.

"I mean, I think a lot of people would say yeah," Barkley said. "I would say yeah because I am a student of the game. Anytime you take more reps in games it’s going to prepare you more."

Translation: I know I can't really say I don't need the work because that's not what we're supposed to say.

Shurmur has preached throughout camp the importance of keeping his team healthy and managing reps properly. That certainly applies to Odell Beckham Jr. in his return from a shattered ankle, although Beckham really cut it loose at the Lions' facility this week — more than he had at any point previously in camp.

But hamstring injuries are tricky things, succeptible to recurring, so it would not stun us if Barkley is kept out for most, if not all, of the remaining preseason action. He hinted that a lack of proper hydration was to blame for the minor hammy pull.

"I was in there, working hard, pushing myself, taking care of my body I thought, but you have to find a way to get better," he said. "When stuff like that happens, you have time to reflect on what you could have done differently."

So far, most of his work — other than watching up close as his teammates performed vs. the Lions during most periods — has come off to the side with trainers. On Wednesday, Barkley did a session with the JUGGS machine, catching passes. He joked: "My hamstring might be hurt, but that’s not going to stop my hands or my arms."

Barkley also did more jogging on Thursday than he had the day before, upping his activity at the request of the Giants' medical staff. It's a nice step forward.

Friday doesn't appear likely. The third preseason game remains a possibility. The fourth one? Highly unlikely Barkley would see action Aug. 30 vs. New England. So he might not win you your preseason fantasy football championship this year. But there's absolutely no indication that there's much preventing Barkley at this point from being ready for Jacksonville on Sept. 9.

"I am feeling good," he said. "It’s coming along. It’s a little frustrating to watch the team be out there. But you have to trust the team, the coaches, the trainers. They have a great plan in place to get me out there as quickly as possible."