Redemption season for a more vocal Saquon Barkley? Why the Giants star is ready to prove the doubters wrong – New York Giants Blog

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – There’s something different about the Saquon Barkley we’re seeing this year. And it goes far beyond the fact that the New York Giants running back is healthier and more explosive on the field this summer.

Barkley has an advantage that was generally non-existent for the first four years of his career. There is a chip on his shoulder that appears to be the size of a Manhattan skyscraper. Instead of tiptoeing in front of the microphone, as he had apparently done before to maintain the finely chiseled image he wanted, Barkley lets it all fly.

It started late last year in an interview with Kim Jones on WFAN in New York. It was there that Barkley first issued the warning to ‘stay on this side of the table when the going gets tough’ after nearly three years with injuries. He has reiterated that message in various forms publicly on several occasions since then, and it culminated last month with perhaps his most poignant admission to date.

“People are trying to write me off. … You know what? F—everyone. I’m ready to go crazy. And I am [going to] let the world feel me,” Barkley let loose on the 2ndWind Podcast hosted by two of his close friends.

It would have been surprising if Barkley hadn’t said the same at this point last year. But that was just an extension of a more open version of the running back that started to surface when things went off the rails last year.

Barkley, 25, hasn’t had a great season in 2021. He wasn’t fully healthy, coming off a torn ACL the previous year and then sadly injured his ankle during the week 5 when he stepped on the foot of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis. . He also admitted that he did not have full confidence in himself and his body.

That led Barkley to rush for 593 yards on 162 carries (3.7 yards per carry) in 13 games. His rushing yards above expectation per carry was minus-0.28, according to NFL Next Gen stats. This basically means that when the ball was in his hands last season, Barkley was a below average running back. Not exactly what you’d expect from the No. 2 overall pick and Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018.

It spurred doubters, and now we see a more vocal version of Barkley.

“I mean, I really wouldn’t say anything triggered it, but I guess I’d just say I’ve been out a few games in the last couple of years,” said Barkley, who has missed at least three games in three of his four professional seasons. “I’m probably sick of it, and not even with the outside noise, but just even with having to take time off from games and rehab and all that. All the bad things I guess you could say.

“I guess I’m a little sick of this. So that just brings me to a place where right now I’m just happy, enjoying life, enjoying the game that I love, and just want to hang out and have fun.

Moments after Barkley uttered the words, he lashed out at “all the pros with clickers” who criticized his running style and called him a dancer. Clearly Barkley has seen and heard the doubters, and he admitted as much to ESPN in an interview earlier this summer. He’s talked about being active on social media and on his phone, so it’s not something he can reasonably ignore.

“He’s a guy who won’t forget that stuff,” said quarterback Daniel Jones, one of his closest friends on the team. “Whether that changes his work ethic or his approach, I’m not sure that’s the case. I think he has that naturally. He’s an extremely competitive guy.

But the outside noise is also not ultimately what motivates Barkley for a bounce-back season in his contract year, although he could use that as motivation.

“It’s not really something to prove [them wrong]”, Barkley said. “I talked about it with my friends. I’ve always been like that, even when I train. I always find things to motivate me. I will invent stuff, even before, when I had no doubts, I told myself that I had doubts.

Barkley isn’t the first and won’t be the last to do so. Former Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., now a free agent, constantly referred to himself as someone who was an underdog his entire life. Still, Beckham went to Isidore Newman, the same top New Orleans high school where Eli, Peyton and Cooper Manning played, played at LSU and was 12e overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.

But the fact that we’re only just starting to hear about this side of Barkley five years into his career is interesting.

“I feel like as we mature as men, we understand that you just have to speak your truth. Understanding that being humble is a cool thing, but speaking your truth is a beautiful thing, and it takes balls to do it,” said cornerback Darnay Holmes, who considers Barkley a friend and a mentor. “I feel like he’s gearing up to be that. He’s a father. He understands that his child admires him. So many different ways he behaves. He knows that his youngster is following in his footsteps.

This new public approach has therefore caught the attention of almost everyone who pays attention to it. Teammates included. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Motivation comes in different shapes and sizes. It also sometimes changes from year to year, week to week. Insightful coaches take this into account.

“I think you try to teach your players as best you can to motivate them,” Giants first-year coach Brian Daboll said. “Sometimes players can motivate each other in certain different ways. I think that’s good. Every player is different. What motivates you can be different from what motivates me. So I kind of let those guys be themselves, and if they have something in mind and it motivates them, that’s great.

Whatever Barkley seems to be doing, it has worked so far. He has looked better this summer than at any other time since the start of the 2019 season and he is significantly more confident than last season. He admitted recently that he was “very, very ahead” of where he was at this point last year when he was only just cleared to return to full training.

Everything is shaping up for a much better 2022 season, as long as he stays healthy.

“He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in. He’s playing as well as I’ve seen him play since I’ve been here,” said receiver David Sills V, who is training with Barkley during the season. off-season. “He is so confident right now. Not that he’s ever been, but his confidence is on another level. So we’re all behind him and can’t wait to see what he does this year.

It comes just at the right time. Barkley is playing on the fifth-year option in his rookie contract. He is expected to become a free agent after the season.

There will be plenty of opportunities for him to impress. The Giants don’t have a deep rush room — Matt Breida, Antonio Williams and Gary Brightwell combined for 192 rushing yards last season — and the team and Barkley are both equally motivated to allow him to take on a charge. monstrous work.

“Good. He’s looked really good since the spring,” general manager Joe Schoen said. “He’s fast, he’s fast, good hands.”

Barkley also seems happy with how the summer has gone: without a hitch. He was the Giants’ only point guard available every practice day and declared himself ready for the season ahead of the final preseason game last weekend.

In Barkley’s mind, he’s back. And not just in a physical way.

“I’m just getting back to being myself, and when I say that, I’m not even talking about hurdles, jumps, long breaks,” he said. “Just smile again and just enjoy it. Enjoy soccer. This is where I am at right now. I did a lot of work not only on my body but also on my mind. And I am at peace.

And he’s not afraid to tell you about it.

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