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The time has arrived.  The wait is over.

Saquon Barkley makes his long-awaited return this week, joining his teammates on the field for the first time since the devastating knee injury that ended his 2020 season after two games.

This is what the Giants want and need to happen, now rather than later, as hope remains that he is able to suit up and play in the season opener against the Broncos. That Sept. 12 game is still five weeks away, and Barkley and the Giants will use that time to determine how far his right knee has come and how much further it has to go before he is ready to carry the football and get hit and tackled in live action.

Barkley finally will be activated off the physically unable to perform list, a source told The Post, as the Giants ramp up practice this week in advance of Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Jets. Barkley will not play in that game, of course, and is not expected to play in the next two preseason games, either.

The Giants will not rush their star running back in any way, shape or form, acclimating him into individual drills until he shows he can handle more of a workload. The goal is to make sure Barkley, 24, does not experience any setbacks and that his progress, unhurried, remains steady.

“We’re going to have conversations on a daily basis about his rehab and conversations on a weekly basis at times on where we think he is coming up,’’ head coach Joe Judge said late last week. “In terms of the timetable, I’m not a doctor. I let the medical team tell me a guy is good to go and put him on the field, I know he’s good to go. 

“In terms of a player like Saquon and a timetable coming back, he’s making daily progress. I know it sounds like a broken record, but that’s important for us to see coming off an injury like this. You want to make sure that it’s not push forward and take a step back.’’

Barkley worked on a side field in the first two weeks of training camp, running and cutting and, at times, simulating what the other running backs were doing in practice, all under the supervision of the training and medical staff.  

Barkley went down early in the second quarter in Chicago on Sept. 20, suffering a torn right anterior cruciate ligament and also damage to his meniscus. After strengthening the area around the knee, Barkley underwent reconstructive surgery to repair the ACL and the partially-torn meniscus on Oct. 30. He was the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,307 yards, catching 91 passes and scoring 15 total touchdowns.  He missed three games with a high ankle sprain in 2019 and finished with 1,003 rushing yards.

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll see,” Barkley said on July 19, asked about his availability for the first regular season game.  “Whenever I’m able to get out there, make sure that I’m 110 percent not just for the safety and health of myself and my well-being, but just so I can go out there and compete at a high level, and show the world who Saquon is again.”

Saquon takes another step in that direction this week.

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