The 2004 Flintridge Prep graduate, who was drafted in the third round by the New York Giants out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2009, underwent a surgical procedure in late February to remove scar tissue from his left ankle, which was broken during a game on Nov. 14, but he is well on his way to a full recovery.
"It's coming along, everything's on schedule," said Barden, who's been rehabbing the injury and undergoing physical therapy at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Center in Los Angeles. "I'm back on track to be ready by the time we're playing again."
When that will be is anyone's guess, however, as an increasingly widening schism between the league's owners and players has threatened to delay the start of the 2011 season, if not wash it out altogether.
With the distribution of revenue between the two sides the core issue at the heart of the failure to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement following the conclusion of this past season, the owners instituted a lockout of the players on March 11, shortly after the NFL Player's Union decertified in anticipation of a legal battle.
A lawsuit filed by 10 players requesting an injunction to end the lockout will be heard in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn., on April 6 in what may be only the first of a series of legal salvos.
"There hasn't been much surprise," Barden said of the series of events that led to the current impasse, which is the first work stoppage in the NFL since 1987. "We've been trying to work out a way to have football in 2011 for a while now, but as players we're taught to prepare for the worst and that's what we've all been doing.
"We know that there's some serious arguments on both sides, so it makes it a tough deal to come to a conclusion."
The turmoil is only now getting to the point where it would directly affect individual players' and teams' coordinated preparation for the season, if indeed there is to be one. According to the non lockout-related "dead" period rule outlined in the former Collective Bargaining Agreement, players are not permitted to participate in meetings of any kind before the offseason program begins, usually around March 15.
But now, with the lockout prohibiting indefinitely any contact between players and coaches or organizations, Barden and his colleagues are left in limbo.
"A lot of guys have got other things going and are finding other ways to fill up their time and just hoping that football comes back as soon as possible," said Barden, who would be in the third year of a four-year contract he signed for $2.48 million with the Giants in 2009. "But until then, we're still working out, still getting better, still taking those necessary steps, whether it's watching tape or studying playbooks.
"At the end of the day, you have to deal with the impediment that is the lockout."
Although he was a multi-sport athlete at Flintridge Prep, Barden, who is technically unemployed until the standoff is resolved, doesn't have any plans to pursue a second athletic career in the interim, as others have done. Cincinnati Bengals wideout Chad Ochocinco has tried out for Major League Soccer's Sporting Kansas City and Baltimore Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski is using his downtime to further a boxing career, while joining other professional football leagues is also an option for locked out players.
"I don't expect it to get that far, but then again, you never know," Barden said on what he will do if there is no season. "The best thing I can do is continue to work out and stay in shape for whenever we do get that call saying football is back.
"We'll hit the ground running, take advantage of what we've been blessed with and make up for that lost time."
What Barden seems most concerned about is getting back on the football field, where he had finally begun to make an impact with the Giants. Barden recorded a career-high 44 yards on three catches on Nov. 14 against the Dallas Cowboys before breaking his ankle.
"First and foremost, I want to play and I'm sure that's the shared sentiment of most of our players in the league," Barden said. "Personally, I understand what the owners are interested in, but as players we recognize what previous players and the union before us have fought for and those are things that you kind of have to be careful when someone's asking you to give them up.
"It's a tough situation for everybody, but I imagine it will work itself out for the best."