Saquon Barkley got an incredulous look on his face when asked if he was hoping to play in the New York Giants’ preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday.
Hoping was not an option as far as the second overall pick in the NFL draft was concerned. The halfback from Penn State wants to play, even though the Giants cut back his workload last week, leaving many to wonder if he was a little dinged after 10 days of training camp.
Coach Pat Shurmur put the injury speculation to rest when talking to the media on Monday. He said Barkley is physically fine and the team is just managing his workload.
It seemed odd, though, on Saturday when the Giants didn’t give Barkley a snap after limiting his carries a day earlier.
Shurmur downplayed it, saying the rookie has been getting plenty of work in drills not open to the media.
Barkley believes he is ready. He has worked hard, picked the brains of quarterback Eli Manning and veteran running back Jonathan Stewart, gotten to know his linemen and seems to have grasped the offense as well as can be expected for a newcomer.
Shurmur said the 21-year-old is making mistakes but learning from every one.
“Hoping? I plan to play,” Barkley said Monday. “That’s like I don’t know; I haven’t experienced an NFL preseason game yet, but I think that hoping would be like, I am hoping I am good to go for that game. I am more than capable to playing now. I am just happy inside to play in my first NFL game. Hopefully I can maximize every rep.”
Barkley said he never had this much time to take care of his body in college. He noted that in his final season at Penn State he had to juggle training camp with taking finals from summer school classes.
Being hit for the first time in the NFL is something Barkley wants to happen.
“The first hit is something that knocks everything out, whereever your nerve is, you are overthinking stuff. It definitely helps.”
Barkley isn’t looking to gain a specific amount of yards or touchdowns. He wants to maximize every chance he gets and to have no missed assignments.
Manning said the best advice he has given Barkley is to take what the defense is giving on each play and realize you are not going to score on every play.
“Understand that expectations are going to be high, and don’t worry about that,” Manning said. “That’s what you have a team for and you have a job to do. Take what they give you and when the opportunity comes and there is a hole and you get to the safety, that’s your opportunity to make a guy miss and make something special happen.”
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said Barkley has been a good test for his defense.
“There’s no question,” he said. “I dealt with a guy of that nature and we’ve talked about it here at this stand before is (David Johnson), an Arizona guy that can split out and try to create mismatches, a guy that can run the ball extremely well between the tackles, and coordinators are going to have a fun time figuring out how they’re going to get their matchups right.”
Shurmur said he was still working on how much everyone will play Thursday at MetLife Stadium. He said he wants to see his whole roster since performance in games carries more weight than training camp in determining the 53-man roster.
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