It’s déjà vu with a twist for Wayne Gallman.
One year ago, an early-season injury to Saquon Barkley opened a door for Gallman, who answered the call at first, but strangely was buried on the bench for the final five games. Now, another injury to Barkley has created another opportunity for Gallman just as he was in danger of again becoming invisible much earlier in this season.
Gallman could make the big leap from unexpected healthy inactive last week against the Bears to starter Sunday against the 49ers, with a final chance to make something promising of his Giants career before entering free agency.
“I’m not making goals,” Gallman told The Post. “I’m going in trusting the line, trusting the offense and trusting what we’ve done in practice. That’s all I can do. If you put in hard work, the results will come.”
Like all football teams, the Giants preach a Next Man Up philosophy. It just doesn’t seem to apply to Gallman.
Gallman totaled 118 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in the first game without Barkley last season. Then he suffered a concussion before he could prove his performance repeatable, was replaced as Barkley’s backup by Buck Allen and managed four offensive touches from Oct. 27 onward. He didn’t dwell on the mystery ending in the offseason.
“I just shifted my focus to what’s more important and that’s preparing myself to be ready for anything, whether that’s starting or staying in a backup role,” Gallman said. “There’s really not much I can do except controlling what I can control.”
Before testing Gallman as lead running back this week, the Giants signed former Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman. After only three practices, Freeman is expected to be part of a rotation with Gallman on first downs and Dion Lewis in passing situations.
“Wayne’s got that long speed, get him ranging out and get him really moving,” coach Joe Judge said. “Every player has a role. Anybody coming in doesn’t replace somebody else who’s already here. They just add to our team.”
If Gallman feels cheated, he isn’t letting on.
“I look at it as another opportunity to learn from a vet,” Gallman said. “Devonta has been in this league a long time and I used to watch him all the time in the good old Clemson-Florida State rivalry. We’re all in it as a group.”
The fresh start provided by a first-year coaching staff was supposed to benefit Gallman. But the Giants’ decision to dress only Barkley, Lewis and fullback Eli Penny last week suggested otherwise.
“My drive is to get better each day and be the best Wayne,” Gallman said. “There’s so much to the league that you can only understand so much. Everything will work out the way it should be.”
The likeliest reasons for Gallman’s bit role are his continued struggles with drops as a pass-catcher, his minimal role on special teams and the constant change around him. If new regimes tend to favor their hand-picked players … well … Gallman has had three head coaches, two position coaches and two general managers since he was a fourth-round pick in 2017.
“He’s attacked every single day, especially this camp, and has always stayed ready,” said tight end and close friend Evan Engram. “Wayne is a real laid-back guy. He definitely understands the opportunity that presents itself, but he’s attacking the work the way he always has.”
Gallman tried his hand as a gunner during training camp but didn’t stick. His special teams snaps dropped from 174 as a rookie to 84 to 17 under coordinator Thomas McGaughey last season — and that’s the easiest path to game day for backup running backs.
But maybe he is the starter at long last.
“I feel like I can make an impact with anything given,” Gallman said. “You don’t specifically try to get better in one area. You try to get better in all areas. I’m willing to do whatever I can to contribute to the Giants. With T-Mac, I don’t think you go up to the coach and ask. It’s more what you earn and what’s in the game plan.”
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