Devonta Freeman was in a hotel room outside of Philadelphia watching his potentially soon-to-be Eagles teammates play on television Sunday when the major injury news scrolled across the bottom of the screen.
Saquon Barkley’s injury later turned out to be a season-ending ACL tear and the Giants suddenly had a better opportunity to offer Freeman than the Eagles could match. So, he left his weekend visit to a rival, headed up the New Jersey Turnpike and signed a one-year contract with a $1.2 million base value and incentives that can make the deal worth $3 million to replace Barkley.
“I know I still have a lot in the tank,” Freeman said. “This was a great opportunity at the right time, coming in to compete.”
The 28-year-old two-time Pro Bowler was cut by the Falcons in March after averaging a career-low 3.6 yards per carry last season. He turned down a free-agent offer from the Seahawks before they signed Carlos Hyde to a one-year, $4 million contract for their rotation.
“A lot of situations didn’t fit what I want to do and some of my own personal goals,” Freeman said. “Trying to win one game at a time and when it’s all said and done hopefully win the big game.”
The Giants will ease Freeman into a rotation with Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis against the 49ers, but there is a chance to become a bell cow again. Running back by committee will be a different look for the Barkley-less Giants and for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who had Ezekiel Elliott as head coach of the Cowboys.
“When I was in Dallas, the focal point of our defense was [stop] No. 26 [Barkley],” Garrett said. “When you have different guys in the roles, maybe the focal point is not quite as narrow on that particular player.”
No matter how much training Freeman did on his own, the acclimation period for a full workload is longer than three practices.
“You can be as young as you want to be,” Freeman said. “I’ve seen guys who have been around this league for a very long time and I’ve studied the way they take care of their body.”
Barkley isn’t going to disappear during his recovery. He was at the team facility on crutches Wednesday and could be a regular as he awaits surgery.
“Without question, we want to keep him around,” coach Joe Judge said. “There’s a lot of [COVID-19] protocols and rules this year that we have to look into in terms of how can we give him access to maybe the sideline or a booth or a [stadium suite]. This guy was elected captain by his teammates for a reason, and he’s an integral part of this program.”
DB Adrian Colbert (quad) was the only limited player in Giants practice.
RBs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, DE Dee Ford, QB Jimmy Garoppolo and LB Dre Greenlaw did not practice for the injury-ravaged 49ers. TE George Kittle was limited.
The turf at MetLife Stadium meets all applicable standards and protocols, the NFL said Thursday. The field was examined Wednesday after the 49ers lodged complaints that the “sticky” surface caused at least four players to sustain knee injuries during their win over the Jets on Sunday. — With AP
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