Giants News | New York Giants –

Giants News | New York Giants –

(Ben Solomon/New York Giants)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley returned to the public eye with the same message he delivered when he last spoke to the media – he’s ready to play football.

Barkley had not fielded questions from the media since July 27, two days after signing his one-year contract following a newsworthy offseason in which he received a franchise tender and did not participate in the team’s offseason conditioning program. He received a heavy workload in training camp, though he didn’t play a down in the Giants’ three-game preseason.

The Giants open their 2023 season in prime-time Sunday against their NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, and Barkley is eager to have another impactful season after rushing for a career-high 1,312 yards last year.

“Obviously, my contract stuff and everything was public and talked about,” Barkley said to a throng of reporters in front of his locker. “I would turn on the TV and I’m seeing myself being talked about. But for me, all that’s in the past. Like I said, once I made that mindset to come here, you’ve got to be mature about it. No hard feelings about it. So now, my back’s against the wall again. I’ve got to go out there and prove it. I’m going to go out there and play my heart out, compete at a high level and do what I do best, not only for myself, but for my teammates.”

Of that, coach Brian Daboll has no doubt.

“I just think Saquon’s a competitor,” Daboll said. “I saw him compete last year and I know he’ll compete this year.”

Barkley was arguably the Giants’ most valuable player last season, when he also had a career-high 295 carries, finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yardage, scored touchdowns in 10 of his 16 regular-season games and added two in the playoffs, tied for the team lead with 57 receptions and was selected to his second Pro Bowl.

The Giants are confident he can post similar numbers this season.

“He came in in great shape, jumped right into the mix and got caught up to all the stuff we were doing on offense, and he’s done a great job,” offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. “First and foremost, he’s a captain so he’s one of those guys you look for from a leadership standpoint. He’s working, he’s setting a standard for the offense, and he’s part of that group that’s doing that.”

“He just executed the offense well, did his job, competed, came in here prepared, studied, worked on things,” Daboll said “If it wasn’t great one day, worked on it the next day. Had some good leadership about him. Again, really, now it’s all about Dallas.”

Last year, Barkley had four rushing attempts in the preseason, so reducing that to zero this summer was not exactly a drastic change.

“It didn’t bother me,” Barkley said. “I go against (defensive lineman) Dexter (Lawrence) and (defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams) every week in camp. They’re some of my best friends and extremely talented, but they don’t take it easy on me. So, I get a lot of contact as you guys probably saw throughout the camp.”

“I think Saquon got a good amount of work this training camp, especially being in pads as much as we were,” Kafka said. “Those guys did a tremendous job of, I think, getting into the flow of the game. Barkley’s a veteran guy, so I don’t think it’ll take him too long to get adjusted to that.”

Barkley had hoped to report with a multi-year contract before ultimately agreeing to the one-year deal. He disputes the contention that his motivation this season is to prove he deserves a more lucrative contract when he becomes a free agent again next year.

“It’s not more of that,” he said. “The financial part of it, obviously that’s part of business. You go out there, you perform at a high level (inaudible) whether that’s for the Giants or other teams, but for me, it’s more of like, I kind of see last year as kind of like a rookie year, I guess. Not my rookie year, obviously, it’s year five, but being back on the scene and showing what I’m capable of doing and now, how can I take it to another level? Whether that’s in-between the tackles, outside of tackles, catching the ball, running routes, showing why I was drafted number two.

“I feel like I was able to do that last year, but now I want to be able to take it to another level and be special. Everyone always talks about the legacy and the names on these walls in this locker room and in the indoor facility, and that’s what I want to be a part of. So, hopefully I can get off to a great start and go on a high note in Week 1.”

Barkley’s 57 catches last season were the second-highest total of his career, surpassed only by the 91 passes he caught in his Rookie of the Year season in 2018. He has said several times that he wants to be more active in the Giants’ passing attack this year.

“We’re always improving any of those little areas,” Kafka said. “Whether it’s a running back wanting to be a little more out in the pass game or a receiver wanting to be more involved in the run game – all the different positions, you want to improve on each player. If they have that and we think it’s a strength that we can build on and use them, then we will. If we don’t, then we won’t.”

No matter how that shakes out, Barkley believes the Giants are going to create a lot of miserable games for opposing defenses this season.

“I think adding (tight end) Darren (Waller) definitely helps, being able to bring a little attention to him, and all the guys,” Barkley said. “All the wide receivers, not just D.J. (quarterback Daniel Jones), stepping up to another level but (wide receiver Darius) Slay(ton), (wide receiver) Isaiah (Hodgins), (wide receiver) P(arris Campbell), Belly (tight end Daniel Bellinger), (wide receiver Sterling) Shep(ard), all those guys, the O-line. I think we feed off each other really well, and I feel like last year we really showed that, being a team that whatever it takes to win, and that’s what I am excited for. Just going out there and competing at a high level with all the extra talent that we have. With D.J. showing the type of player that he is and him taking it to another level, it forces you to take it to another level, too. I just feel like me being in the second year, understanding the offense a little bit more, knowing the scheme, knowing where to block, being able to time it better is just going to help my game.”

Barkley has also stated that he wants to be, as he put it, “a Giant for life.” Right now, his motivation is on being the best Giant he can be in the 2023 season.

“My focus is really on just this season, take it one day at a time,” he said. “Everyone knows how I feel. I was public about it before, but I think I would be doing a disservice to myself to get too caught up in my future and worrying about what’s going to happen and being a Giant for life. I’ve got to live in the moment, I’ve got to live in the now and like I’ve said multiple times for five years, kind of a saying that I stole from (Penn State head coach) James Franklin, take it one day at a time, live in the moment and let the rest take care of itself.”

*The Giants’ entire roster practiced Wednesday, though seven players were limited: running back Gary Brightwell (knee), wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), tight end Lawrence Cager (ankle), defensive lineman D.J. Davidson (knee), linebacker Cam Brown (ankle), and defensive backs Cor’Dale Flott (hamstring) and Gervarrius Owens (hamstring).

*Three Cowboys players did not practice: left guard Tyler Smith (hamstring), safety Donovan Wilson (calf) and defensive end Sam Williams (foot).

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