Saquon Barkley keeps running into frustrating injuries and a murky Gia…

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As he sat on the bench, his ankle throbbing with pain and swelling to nearly twice its normal size, Saquon Barkley looked up to the rafters of the cavernous AT&T Stadium. His expression left you with the inescapable observation that he was thinking of this simple one-information reaction to his situation:

“Why?”

There was nevertheless no official update of this latest injury in what has turned into a star-crossed career as the Giants’ franchise running back, but Barkley didn’t need a doctor’s diagnosis to know this would be in addition another setback.

He pounded both fists on his thigh pads. Not once, but twice.

“What would go by your guys’ minds if you just rehabbed for 10 or 11 months to get back on the field, and then you got hurt by rolling your ankle by stepping on someone else’s foot?” Barkley said recently when I reminded him of his reaction. “You’re going to be frustrated. You’re going to be depleted. You’re human. I’m human. clearly, those negative thoughts crawl in.”

Barkley knew.

He knew right then that he would have to miss more time, this after coming back for the start of the 2021 season from a knee injury that felled him in Week 2 last year. All that work. All that rehab. All that time confronting doubts about whether his ACL would keep up up, and now a sprained ankle after accidentally stepping on Cowboys defensive back Jourdan Lewis’ foot.

A week earlier in New Orleans, he was just starting to feel as if he was getting back to form, catching a 54-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and then running for the winning touchdown in overtime of a emotional victory at the Superdome.

And now this.

Monday night’s game against reigning AFC champion Kansas City marks the third straight game he has missed, although he hopes to be back in time for next Sunday’s home game against the Raiders. The game precedes Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. And while it is highly doubtful the Giants will deal the player they once hoped to build the offense around when they made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2018, the fact that his future remains uncertain is simply not what he ever imagined.

As he stared up to the top of the Cowboys’ stadium that afternoon, he surely wondered why it had all come to this.

He could only watch his teammates go up against Patrick Mahomes & Co. on the national stage Monday night. He could only imagine what it will finally be like once he gets back on the field.

“I only control what I can control, and right now the only thing I can control is to find a way to get back on the field by taking care of my body and getting my body ready and getting my body healthy,” he said. “All those other things [about the future] are out of my control, so I can’t already focus on that.”

He insisted that he’s not focused on his contract, which expires after the 2022 season. All he wants is to get “back on the football field and doing what I love and playing the sport that I’ve loved since I was a little kid.”

At his best, Barkley plays with the kind of enthusiasm that made him the country’s best running back at Penn State and led to a bright rookie season with the Giants. Barkley ran for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018, and after the Giants drafted Daniel Jones a year later it looked as if maybe, just maybe, the team had their quarterback and running back of the future in the same backfield.

But Barkley has been injured three straight years — a sprained ankle in 2019, the knee injury in 2020 and now another ankle sprain. already if the Giants were to entertain trade offers before Tuesday’s deadline, it’s hard to imagine they’d get equal value in return. After all, it’s hard to already quantify Barkley’s value right now because of the injury situation.

They have time on their side after exercising a fifth-year option for 2022, but it may not make fiscal sense to keep him beyond that on another contract, especially if he is looking to join the stratospheric financial world of the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott or Dalvin Cook of the Vikings. And look no further than Titans All-Pro running back Derrick Henry’s potentially season-ending foot injury as the latest proof that placing too much value in a running back is a high-risk proposition.

Barkley knows.

The Giants know.

He will almost certainly keep a Giant after Tuesday’s trade deadline. As he should. He deserves the chance to begin again his career where it started. But as he surely realized while sitting there helplessly watching his teammates carry on without him in Dallas, Barkley’s story in New York may not last as long as he once hoped.