EAST RUTHERFOFD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley is willing to carry as a heavy a load as the Giants decide to give him in their NFC Wild Card Game Sunday in Minnesota.
"I want the ball as many times as needed to win this game," Barkley said. "Whatever I got to do. That's been my motto throughout the entire season and I'm sticking with it. Obviously, I carried the ball a little bit more earlier in the year, second half of the season not so much, but the job was to get into the playoffs, and we found a way to do that. Whatever we got to do to get the win, I'm willing to do for my team. If it's 40, 50, then it's 40, 50. If it's zero, five, then it's zero, five."
It will be the biggest upset in many seasons if it's the latter total. Barkley was fourth in the NFL with 295 rushing attempts in the regular season and would have exceeded 300 had the Giants needed him to play the finale last week in Philadelphia. He also tied Richie James for the team lead with 57 receptions. The 352 scrimmage touches tied the career high he set in his 2018 Rookie of the Year season. That was particularly rewarding because Barkley missed games with injuries each of the previous three years, including almost the entire 2020 season.
"It feels good," Barkley said. "I guess I kind of had luck on my side this season, to be honest. All the rest of the injuries I had in years prior is stuff that I couldn't control. I stepped on someone's foot. Making a routine play, I tore my knee. That's when I kind of came to the realization after those two years is that no matter how hard you work, no matter how much time you put into your body, there's just some things you can't control. Thank the man upstairs for keeping me healthy and just ready for the next game.
"I haven't played a full season in a long time. I played a full season and got some extra games left. I feel good. I'm excited."
After 60 regular-season games, 4,249 rushing yards and 247 catches, Barkley will finally experience postseason football on Sunday.
"As a player, as a competitor, you want these moments – this is the stuff you dream about as a kid," Barkley said. "Playing in the playoffs. Going to a hostile environment; it's loud, making big plays and silencing the crowd. That's stuff that you think about as a kid. Now, that opportunity is here. … I want to go out there and make plays for my team and help them win the football game in whatever way that it's possible, whether that's with the ball in my hand or without the ball in my hand. I'm going to try to do that."
Despite his long wait to participate in the playoffs, Barkley said he will not be nervous on Sunday.
"Obviously, I know it's a playoff game - more attention, more eyes, but to me, I won't be nervous," he said. "Will I be hyped? Yeah, I get hyped for every single game. Nerves, I wouldn't say that. For me, it's just another football game. I talked to (Michael) Strahan when he was here not too long ago and I asked him, 'What's really the difference between playoff football?' He said obviously the intensity rises and all that, but the best advice he gave me was don't make the game bigger than it needs to be. I'm keeping that advice and sticking with that advice."
Each team will unleash a great running back in U.S. Bank Stadium. Barkley was fourth in the NFL with a career-high 1,312 rushing yards. Minnesota's Dalvin Cook was sixth with 1,173. They were two of the seven NFL running backs with at least 1,400 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns (Barkley: 1,650 yards and 10 scores; Cook 1,468 yards and 10 scores).
Barkley had the superior statistics in the Vikings' 27-24 victory on Dec. 24. He rushed for a game-high 84 yards, including a 27-yard fourth-quarter touchdown and was one of three Giants with eight receptions, for 49 yards. Cook countered with 64 yards on the ground and 13 more on three receptions.
But Barkley isn't interested in winning personal competitions - only football games.
"The only thing we can control is how we go out there, how we perform, and the only thing we need to focus on is the men and women in that building no matter what happens throughout this playoff," he said. "That's the beauty, that's the world we live in. You guys (reporters) can say what you want to say, but we can't take it to heart. We just got to focus on us, and I think we've been doing that throughout the whole season and that's why we're in the position we are in.
"The goal is not just to make it to the playoffs. You want to give yourself the opportunity to compete for the whole thing. We gave ourselves that chance. Now, we got to take it game by game. We got a big one, the biggest one because it's the next game on our schedule."
And one they must win to play again next week.
View rare photos of the Giants' history playing on Wild Card Weekend in the NFL Playoffs.
*The Giants added tackle Evan Neal (ankle) and wide receiver Marcus Johnson (knee) to their injury report. Both were limited in practice. Four others were limited for the second straight day: cornerback Adoree' Jackson (knee), defensive lineman Leonard Williams (neck), linebacker Azeez Ojulari (ankle) and safety Jason Pinnock (shoulder).
*Coach Brian Daboll has been asked daily about Jackson, who missed the season's last seven games.
"(I am) encouraged, hopeful," Daboll said. "I think we've got to go through these next two days. But I've seen progress."
Center Jon Feliciano (back) practiced fully after he was limited yesterday, as did safety Xavier McKinney (fingers).
View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings