It has been a weird couple of weeks for Devontae Booker, who has been surprisingly successful as the Giants’ starting running back and this week has been pretty much their only running back.
During a hectic week for the Giants, in which 13 rapid-test COVID-19 results came back positive in one day (the majority were found to be false positives), Saquon Barkley and third-string running back Gary Brightwell were isolated, as was running backs coach Burton Burns, who also tested positive.
So, what has the running backs room been like?
“It’s been pretty much me in there,” Booker said with a laugh after practice Friday. “I’m looking around like, ‘Where’s everybody at?’
“But it’s been tough, but just got to learn how to work through it and be safe.”
In reality, it was Booker, practice-squad running back Sandro Platzgummer and fullback Eli Penny, with offensive assistant Jody Wright mostly filling in for Burns, all planning for Sunday’s game against the Raiders, when Booker will be the main focus against one of his former teams.
Without Barkley, who was officially ruled out because of his ankle injury, the Giants will rely upon Booker, who is trying to prove he still belongs in the NFL during his sixth season.
He did a nice job Monday, rushing for 60 yards on 15 carries and racking up 65 more through the air in a loss to the Chiefs, emerging as a trustworthy target for Daniel Jones.
“I’m not a young guy in this league anymore,” the 29-year-old told The Post after practice Friday.
Booker said he has to show he can produce if he wants to hold onto at least a backup role. He played 93 percent of the snaps against the Chiefs, his most of the year, and had season highs in rushing and receiving yards.
“Going out there and showing that Monday night, I guess it reconfirmed I could do those types of things,” said Booker, who was one of the first free-agent signings of the Giants’ last offseason after four seasons with the Broncos and one with the Raiders.
Those “types of things” included a second-quarter checkdown, in which Jones was flushed out of the pocket and found Booker. Listed at 219 pounds, Booker broke a few tackles and rumbled for 41 yards. Without Barkley, there was at least a flash of big-play ability from the Giants’ backfield.
He will look for more of those flashes against the Raiders. He downplayed any extra motivation, though he did say he’s familiar with the schemes Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley may throw at the Giants.
He’s familiar, too, with the Raiders’ interim head coach. In the wake of the email scandal that resulted in Jon Gruden’s resignation, previous assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia took the reins.
Booker is thrilled for Bisaccia. He said he “absolutely loves” the Yonkers native, who has coached football (in college and the NFL) for 38 years.
“Good friend. Talks to you about life lessons, what’s going on — you could talk to him about anything,” Booker said.
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