It all felt familiar to Ramses Barden: the five passes thrown his way in the second quarter, the deep slant up the left side for 26 yards and the ball he wrestled away from a defender.
In two injury-plagued NFL seasons, Barden has that 15 minutes against the Cowboys last November as proof everything he did at Cal Poly wasn’t a fluke.
“I almost felt like I was in college again,” the Giants’ wide receiver said. “Like, ‘I’m the man. Throw me the ball every time.’ ”
Barden looks like Keyshawn Johnson. Now, he’s starting to sound like him.
OK, so he wasn’t asking for the “damn ball.” He was merely expressing what has frustrated the Giants the past 11-plus months: Here they had a 6-foot-6, 224-pound athletic target who finally had a breakout quarter in that game against Dallas last season and didn’t even get to finish it.
Barden, who had three catches for 34 yards (plus one for 13 yards that was negated by a penalty) in the game, broke his leg on the fifth ball thrown his way. The 2009 third-round pick was placed on injured reserve, had cleanup surgery in February, was slow to recover in the offseason and landed on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Starting Monday, Barden was eligible to practice. He didn’t, because that would have started a three-week clock for the Giants to add him to the active roster. With a bye this weekend, there was no reason to rush.
Next week, a healthy Barden hopes to return. It’s unclear if the team will green-light him, but it’s evident the Giants hope to soon see the same Barden from last November.
“That only scratches the surface of what he’s capable of doing,” wide receivers coach Sean Ryan said. “He’s a smart player and that gives you the ability to move him around. He can play all four (receiver) spots. He’s done a good job of staying attentive in meetings when he hasn’t played, so I expect him to mentally, off the bat, be in a good place.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride thinks Barden will be rusty, and Barden agrees. But Barden says he’ll soon be back in sync with Eli Manning the way he was when Manning threw to him in the Dallas game, even on one play when linebacker Keith Brooking was all over his back.
“We talked about that play afterward and he was like, ‘I shouldn’t have thrown that.’ But I came down with it,” Barden said. “And I’d like to think he has that trust in me all the time.”
Barden, who has six career catches, must work on also building such trust with the coaches.
“Sure, and that’s the next place it goes,” he said. “It doesn’t go to talking about it. It goes to, ‘OK, he’s back out on the field, he’s looking like himself, let’s see where we can work him in sooner rather than later.’”