EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Saquan Barkley’s message to Giants message to Giants fans drew an instant reaction on social media, which is always quick to offer up its opinion.
“I just want to show the Giants that the guy that they drafted is still here,” the Giants running back said after the second day of training camp. For Barkley, that means returning to his rookie form when he showed the athleticism and skill that made him a star during his collegiate days at Penn State.
After a rookie year where he was a threat on the ground and as a receiving target — Barkley had 1,307 rushing yards and 721 receiving yards for 15 touchdowns — and a decent 2019 campaign injuries have derailed his development. Since 2020 Barkley has appeared in just 15 total games.
All of that is to say that the fifth-year player has a chip on his shoulder this year as he tries to regain the form that he once had. Barkley had shown flashes of it last year, most notable during Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints, and camp will be the first step this year in proving he can maintain that form for the full year.
Barkley nearly evaded Thursday’s press conference without having to discuss his ACL or the number of injuries he’s dealt with over the course of his career.
“I can’t focus on that. I know what I am capable of doing and I know the talent that I have,” he said. “The way I kind of think of it is the same mindset I had when I first came into the league when everyone asked me what my expectations are, and this and that. The way I look at life is if I take care of the little things and take it day by day the rest will take care of itself and control what I can control.”
Part of that means being as versatile as Barkley can be for the Giants this season. New head coach Brian Daboll has certainly steered into that a bit more during the first two days of training camp.
Barkley was noticeably running more receiving routes during Day 2 of camp. During his time at Penn State, the now 25-year-old spent time working with receivers and continued to do so once he went to the NFL.
“This is probably the first time (the media) has ever witnessed me working out with the wide receivers, but that’s my offseason training,” Barkley said. “I do running back drills, a lot of running back drills, so I can expand my game and be more versatile when we do offensive trips or (Daniel Jones) needs someone to throw. If he calls the wide receivers I try to make sure I’m there and just try to learn because I want to do whatever I can to help this team win, and expand my game.
“Whatever coach needs me to do or asks me to do I just go over there and try my best.”
Daboll is still getting to know the players on his team and as part of that process, he’s trying different things to see what works and who is comfortable where. That included having Barkley line up as a receiver.
“You see him running around here; he’s a pretty skilled player,” the Giants head coach said. “So, our job is to figure out ways to use him, whether he did it last year or the year before, two years, in college. When you’re developing in a system, you kind of figure out what these guys do best, and you challenge them to do more. And if it doesn’t look great, then you see if you want to keep pursuing it. If you want to keep pursuing it, then you’ve got to get them better. If not, then you just throw it away and do something else.”
Barkley is one of the longest-tenured Giants on the roster this season, only behind Sterling Shepard, but his contract with the team doesn’t go beyond this season. That means for the back to get a new deal he’ll have to show the new bosses that he can get back to his old self for the full season.
Which has led to Barkley keeping his focus for the year pretty straightforward.
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“You can’t focus on that stuff. Obviously, that stuff is up in the air,” he said about his contract. “I know that coming into year five, coming into my option year, my thing is just, like I keep saying if I take care of the little things and God blesses me, and nothing crazy happens, the rest will take care of itself. I know where I am at mentally, I know where I’m at physically.
“I know what I am capable of doing. I just have to focus on taking care of my mind, my mental, and try to be the best teammate that I can be. That’s every single day. When the time comes, it is going to pay off.”