New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley refused to make any promises about returning from a high ankle sprain just three weeks after suffering the injury.
But it was hard not to miss the powerful tones of hope and excitement in the second year running back's voice Thursday after he completed his second straight day of practice taking his full workload of reps.
"I feel pretty good; taking it day by day," he said. "This week of practice, obviously, you all know that I've been fully participating, and I'm feeling good, but still taking it day by day. Just hopefully trying to get out there for my teammates."
Barkley, who not long after suffering the high ankle sprain in a Week 3 win over the Bucs vowed to get back as quickly as possible, has been as diligent with the details of his rehab as he is in preparing for opposing defenses.
He's been a regular attendee in the trainer's room, showing up an extra hour early that his teammates so he could get a jump start on his treatment.
And despite his frustration with not being able to be a part of the sport he loves for three weeks, he's made sure that he listened to the Giants' medical staff's advice to not suffer any setbacks.
The results have spoken for themselves. Barkley, who, according to most reports, was supposed to miss between four to eight weeks, is on track to return after only three.
"The biggest difference from where I was last week to where I am right now, I'm practicing," he said.
"With this injury, you continue to get better. Last week I was taking reps individually and I was running routes, but it's different when you actually have to react and make cuts going against the scout team and going against the defense.
"So, that's the biggest difference, I'm actually practicing this week, and I get to actually feel making those cuts and preparing myself for the game."
Barkley chuckled when asked if he felt the same as he did after Thursday's practice, would he take that as a sign that he would be active when the Giants host the Arizona Cardinals.
"I'm just going to continue to take it day by day and trust my teammates, trust the process, trust the trainers," he said.
If he does get the green light, Barkley expects he'll be able to handle a normal workload which, for him, has averaged around 15.6 carries per game over his 19-game NFL career.
"No doubt in my mind," he said of being ready to handle a full workload if he's active.
"I know that even if I want to be out there as much as I can, it's ultimately really not up to me. It's going to be up to the team doctors and the trainers and coaches. I know that I feel confident enough that whatever they need my role, my responsibility, to be, I'm going to be able to do it for the team.
For Barkley, the toughest part of his injury was being away from the game he loves, which is why he's attacked his rehab with the same aggressiveness as how he attacks running lane creases.
"Even when I'm done playing this game one day, I'm always going to want to be out there because you love this game and this is a game that I grew up watching and grew up wanting to do, and I get to wake up every single morning and live my dream," he said.
"So, obviously it's very fun coming in here and getting in a lot of hard work in the weight room and in practice and in film, but I think the most fun is going out there and competing with your brothers, so that's what I'm most excited to be able to do."
Barkley joked that his frustration over not being able to play had turned him into an "angry Saquon" who has discovered a new level of appreciation for the opportunity he has to be in the NFL.
"It's going to be more just appreciation because when you actually get the game taken away from you-and don't get me wrong, I know it's not a season-ending injury, it's an injury that took me out for a couple weeks-but when you're passionate about this game and when you have to step away from it and watch your teammates go out there, and you've got to be in a box looking down and can't really do much for your team, it makes you understand how much you actually care and appreciate this game," he said.
The Giants no doubt are looking forward to Barkley's return-even if they're not quite ready to announce what's become more and more evident with each passing day this week.
The Giants running game has undoubtedly missed Barkley. In the first three games in which he played, the rushing game averaged 117.3 yards per game; without Barkley, that number dropped to 90 yards per game.
"I guess statistically we went down, but I give a lot of credit to (Jon) Hilliman, EP (Eli Penny), Wayne (Gallman Jr.), and all those guys. I think they did a tremendous job of doing what they needed to do and making the plays when they needed to be," Barkley said.
"The way that I think that I can help is just go out there and be me-go out there playing with the God-given ability that I have, and the mentality of competing every single time, and doing it for your teammates just because you want your team to win."