EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Wayne Gallman hasn’t had the most inactive job in the NFL, but at times it must have seemed that way.
The third-year pro last season was the top backup to Saquon Barkley, whose attitude about carrying and catching the ball is that more is better, and whose security as a starter surely ranks among the league’s top one percentile. Barkley was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, when his 352 touches (261 rushing attempts and 91 receptions) placed him second in the league behind Ezekiel Elliott’s 381. Gallman was runner-up among Giants backs, getting his hands on the ball 65 times (51 carries and 14 receptions).
Barkley amassed 1,307 rushing yards and 721 receiving for an NFL-high 2,028 yards from scrimmage. Gallman totaled 176 yards on the ground and 14 catches, or 300 yards and 20 receptions fewer, respectively, than he had as a rookie in 2017.
“It put my mind in a different place, honestly,” Gallman said during a training camp break. “Coming off that rookie season, it was a bad season. But moving forward, my mindset was to be - my rookie year was to practice and train like a starter. And it’s still the same to this day. You can’t help the fact that we drafted my brother Saquon. But you saw what he just did. He’s doing great. He got the 16th player in the whole league (in the NFL players’ top 100 rankings). That’s granted, and it’s also business. I can’t worry about that. I’ve got to worry about what I can do, and what I can contribute to the team. I have a great mindset moving forward. Whenever my opportunity, whenever my name is called, I’ll be sure to show up.”
Gallman, a 2017 fourth-round draft choice, was unable to play in the Giants’ preseason victory against Chicago Friday night because of a foot injury. But he returned to practice yesterday, and he is again splitting reps between the first and second-team offenses.
The third-year pro watched the game with other injured players in a MetLife Stadium suite.
“I’m in the booth yelling and screaming thinking that my teammates hear me, but they don’t,” Gallman said. “It was good just to see it from the outside, like one of the people in the stands. I really got a different view.”
He does, however, prefer the field-level panorama.
Gallman shares reserve duties with Paul Perkins, who has returned to the field after missing the entire 2018 season, former Dallas Cowboy Rod Smith, Eli Penny and rookie free agent Jon Hilliman. Is life behind Barkley a lonely existence for a teammate who shares his position?
“It’s not difficult at all,” Gallman said. “Just come into work every day. These are my brothers. Of course, we’re going to compete. The business part of it, you can’t really worry about that. If you’re cut, you’re cut. If you make the team, you make the team. If you go to another team, you go to another team. If you’re the starter, you’re the starter. It is what it is. That goes back to my saying, just put the hard work in. Let the results show. That’s all that really matters. You can’t really think about those things.”
In his record-breaking debut season, Barkley had 210 more rushing attempts than Gallman, the NFL’s third-largest gap between a team’s top two backs, behind Dallas’ 229 (Ezekiel Elliott led the league with 304 attempts and 1,434 yards) and the Los Angele Rams’ 213 (Todd Gurley had 256 carries and 1,251 yards).
Barkley ran for 1,131 more yards than Gallman, the league’ biggest differential between a team’s first and second ground-gainers. Dallas was just two yards behind. Quarterback Dak Prescott was second on the Cowboys with 305 yards on 75 attempts. The team’s No. 3 rusher and second running back was Smith (44 carries, 127 yards), who now hopes to back up Barkley after playing behind Elliott. It’s an opportunity he relishes.
“I love it (here), it’s been a good experience so far,” Smith said. “We’re all committed to trying to get where we need to be. We help each other out. We don’t leave anybody out to dry. If we see someone going through something, or needs help with something, we correct it immediately, on the field and in the room. We’re just building chemistry. You can tell how close we’re getting by being around us.”
Smith played behind some of the NFL’s best running backs in his first four NFL seasons. He began his career in 2015 in Seattle, where the feature back was Marshawn Lynch. Later that year, he moved to Dallas and, in succession, he played behind Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and Elliott, who was the league’s top rusher twice in his first three seasons.
“I picked up a lot of knowledge from a lot of guys and put my own twist into it,” Smith said. “When I am out there, you see the growth of (those backs) and also what I was able to create on my own.”
Now he gets to work with Barkley, of whom he quickly became an admirer.
“Saquon, he gets it,” Smith said. “He wants to be a leader and he wants to be a top dog. He puts the work in the weight room, on the field, and even in the meeting and film rooms. He asks questions, communicates with all the running backs here. I definitely like his vibe.”
Perkins last year suffered a torn pectoral muscle in an individual workout prior to the start of the Giants’ offseason conditioning program and spent the entire season on the reserve/non-football injury list. Now he’s competing to stay on the roster and get some of those precious few rushing attempts that aren’t Barkley’s.
“It feels good to be back,” Perkins said. “I’m just out here having fun with the guys, enjoying my time out here and just grateful. It’s a blessing to be out here and to still be here. (After) being out of football for a whole year, there definitely has been a learning curve. But I feel like I’m slowly but surely coming back.”
Penny had just seven rushing attempts for 25 yards last year and none in two preseason games this month. But coach Pat Shurmur today was quick to praise Penny.
“If you ask him, he’ll tell you that he’s a converted halfback,” Shurmur said. “Just ask him, he’ll tell you. He’s fond of that. He’s a fullback. But the one thing about him is that if we have a dire situation, he can go in there and run the football. I’m very fond of him because he’s one of the people in this building that, in my opinion, has never had a bad day. He’s smiling. He may have had a bad play or a bad meal, but he’s never had a bad day. He’s a little bit of an inspiration to me because he just keeps going. He loves the game and he keeps playing. He’s done some good stuff for us.”