EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — After not getting a long-term contract with the New York Giants and signing his $10 million franchise tag, star running back Saquon Barkley is once again out to prove himself.
It's the same approach, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft took after not getting a deal before last season. All he did was respond with a career-best 1,312 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. He tied for the team lead with 57 catches.
All it got him was a franchise tag after the season and his highly publicized contract talks got nowhere in a market that no longer favors running backs. He ended up signing for the franchise amount a day before the start of training camp, which he felt was a major disappointment.
“All that’s in the past," Barkley said after practice Wednesday, just four days before the Giants' Sunday night opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
“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.”
If he stays healthy, there is little doubt the 26-year-old Barkley can have another big season.
Former Penn State teammate and current Cowboys All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons talked with Barkley last weekend when the two attended the West Virginia-Penn State game on Saturday night in Happy Valley.
“He’s excited,” Parsons said Wednesday after the Cowboys practiced in Frisco, Texas. “He’s talking about his new run style, how he’s going back to Penn State Saquon, things like that. We both know it’s all love at the end of the day. He’s like a big brother to me. He’s a big reason why I committed to Penn State. I’m always looking forward to playing him.”
Barkley will be heading into the season after not playing a down in team's three preseason games. He got many of the snaps with the No. 1 offense during the five-plus weeks of training camp.
“It didn’t bother me. I go against (defensive lineman) Dexter (Lawrence II) and (defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams) every week in camp,” he said. “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.”
The matchup with the Cowboys should give an indication whether the Giants improved in the offseason. They were 9-7-1 last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
However, they also lost to Dallas and the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles twice during the regular season.
Dallas has dominated the Giants in recent years, winning four straight and 11 of 12.
“It’s a tough team. It’s a great team. It’s always a tough challenge when you go against Dallas,” Barkley said. “We know how good the NFC East is and it’s important to get (off to) a fast start. That’s just how the season goes. You see how helpful it was to us last year. But it’s going to be a tough game.”
New York might be a little more prepared for the Cowboys' defense this season.
Quarterback Daniel Jones is also coming off a career season. The Giants' depth at receiver has increased with the signing of Parris Campbell, the drafting of Jalin Hyatt, the trade for tight end Darren Waller and the return of wide outs Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins and Sterling Shepard and tight end Daniel Bellinger.
“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,” Barkley said. “Just going out there and competing at a high level with all the extra talent that we have.”
Heading into his fifth season, Barkley wants to take his game to a new level. He ran inside and outside last season, caught passes and ran the right routes. He was 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,” he said.
“So, hopefully I can start off to a great start and go on a high note in Week 1.”
AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon in Frisco, Texas, contributed to this report.
Tom Canavan, The Associated Press