EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The moment of truth is fast approaching for New York Giants running back Paul Perkins.
After missing the 2018 season with a torn pectoral muscle, Perkins is days away from finding out if the surgery, the rehabilitation and the hard work will have been enough to earn him a roster spot again.
The 24-year-old is certainly going to get a lot of work Thursday night when the Giants (3-0) face the Patriots (3-0) in Foxborough, Massachusetts in their preseason finale. The final cuts to the 53-man roster come Saturday.
NFL offensive rookie of the year Saquon Barkley has not played in the preseason so don't expect to see him. The Giants probably aren't going to use backup Wayne Gallman much and Rod Smith has a groin injury. That leaves Perkins, free agent Jon Hilliman and fullback Eli Penny.
"Missing a year of football you kind of cherish these extra plays, these extra reps, so I am looking forward to it," Perkins said Tuesday after practice.
Perkins knows he has to prove himself to coach Pat Shurmur. His year out was Shurmur's first season with the Giants.
While they got to know each other, the coach never saw him play other than on film in 25 regular-season games in his first two games, including five starts.
A fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA in 2016, Perkins has carried 13 times in the preseason for 46 yards, a 3.5 yard average. He is second on the team with seven catches for 65 yards. On the negative side, he has lost a fumble.
"I don't know him as well as some, but he's steadily improved," Shurmur said. "It's fair to say that he was probably a little bit rusty when he first got back at it. But I think he's made steady improvements."
Perkins was hurt in February 2018 while lifting weights before heading to organized team activities. He initially thought he pulled a muscle. But the Giants found it was more serious. He had surgery in April with a six to eight months of rehabilitation. He was ready to go by October, but the Giants felt that was too late for him to contribute.
Perkins credits much of his comeback to his trainers, his faith and family. He has tried to keep a positive mindset. His goal was to show the team what it had missed during his year away.
"It was nerve-wracking going out there are missing a year and what to expect after so long," said Perkins, whose goal is to have fun and let the plays come to him instead of pressing. "Everything changes, but at the end of the day it's football."
Besides wearing No. 28, Perkins will stand out because his dreadlocks extend from the back of his helmet and down his back. Unlike former running back Ricky Williams, Perkins said no one yanked him down by his hair.
"It gets pulled all the time, probably in the heat of the moment," he said with a laugh. "I notice it in the moment but it's nothing to remember."
But he will remember this weekend, regardless of what happens.
NOTES: Starting LT Nate Solder was excused from practice. ... Free agent WR Alex Wesley sprained his left ankle and was carted off the field. ... WR Darius Slayton, a fifth-round draft pick, is battling a hamstring issue again. .... Shurmur on final cuts: "Every team has 90, and they're going to get down to 53. Each one of those conversations is as different as the player that you're talking to because they're all at different stages of their career. Some of them are older players, some of them are younger players, and the reality of it is that a lot of these players are going to get an opportunity hopefully someplace else, or maybe back here when our roster changes. We're just open and honest about everything."