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Notebook: Saquon Barkley focused on Panthers, not awards


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley celebrated his third career Player of the Week award in the only manner he deems appropriate.

"Just come into work," Barkley said after Wednesday's practice. "That's the only thing I can do. I already went back, watched film, wrote my notes, ball security."

That latter point dominated his thoughts more than all the good he did in the Giants' 21-20 season-opening victory against the Tennessee Titans Sunday in Nissan Stadium. Barkley fumbled the ball at the end of a 33-yard run on the Giants' final offensive series. Had the Titans recovered, the Giants' celebration might well have never occurred. But the ball went out-of-bounds, the Giants retained possession and soon took their only lead of the game.

"I got lucky in that situation, that could've gone the wrong way," Barkley said. "That could've hurt us instead of helping us. Got to be better in ball security, got to be better in pass pro. Still missed some opportunities out there, left a lot of yards. So that's my focus, just coming in and seeing what I can do better and when the game comes, execute the plays that I'm able to execute.

"Every game might not be a 194-yard performance, but whatever I can do to help the team win, that's what I want to be able to do."

He certainly accomplished that mission in Nashville. Barkley rushed for 164 yards, his highest total in almost three years and the most ever by a Giants back on opening day. The previous mark was 146 yards by Tiki Barber against St. Louis in 2003.

Barkley led the Giants with six receptions, for 30 yards. He scored the game-winning points when he caught a shovel pass from Daniel Jones for a two-point conversion with 1:06 remaining.

He even managed to accomplish a statistical oddity. Barkley's longest gain was 68 yards, the fourth time in his career he ripped off a run exactly that length. Since he entered the NFL in 2018, there have been only two other rushes of exactly 68 yards – one each by Derrick Henry and Dontrell Hillard, who were Tennessee's top two rushers last week.

Barkley led all NFL players in Week 1 with his 164 rushing yards and 194 yards from scrimmage. He was an easy choice as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

"It's great, but any individual award is really a team award," he said. "I don't get that without the help of my offensive linemen, wide receivers blocking down the field, (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) making great calls and (offensive Coordinator Mike) Kafka making great calls. At the end of the day, the most important thing last week was getting the win and we've got to shift to Carolina."

That's Barkley characteristically not looking behind at what he has accomplished, but ahead to what he and the Giants can do next, starting with the home opener Sunday against the Panthers.

"Don't overreact," he said. "Just focus on the little things. At the end of the day, we got a win, but I said it when I talked last Thursday, no matter if we won by 40 or lost by 40, we had a great week of practice, we had a great week of preparation, so we've got to continue to fall in love with the process. As a leader and all leaders on this team, we've got to try to keep that the mindset for the team. So just keep moving, keep taking it one day at a time and get ready for Carolina."

View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.

*Kadarius Toney, the Giants' 2021 first-round draft choice, participated in just seven snaps in Tennessee.

"At the end of the day, I was there when my number was called," Toney said. "Simple. … I did my job. I get paid to do one thing, do my job."

Was he disappointed he didn't play more?

"Disappointed in a victory?" he said. "Disappointed in winning? You sound crazy. … If I played two plays, one play and we win – I don't really care nothing about getting no…it's okay."

Toney's only two touches were fourth-quarter rushing attempts. On the first, he took a handoff from Daniel Jones and ran around left end for 19 yards. On the second, Jones threw the ball backward to Jones, who cocked his arm to throw a pass before tucking the ball under his arm and scrambling for a four-yard gain.

"I was pretty close (to throwing it)," Toney said. "At the time, the defenders got too close to me and I didn't have a good look that I wanted down field. I ended up making a better decision."

At his postgame news conference, coach Brian Daboll was asked about the decision to play Toney so little.

"We have personnel groups for all our receivers," Daboll said. "We'll do that for every game. Maybe it's more. Maybe it's less. It just depends on what we're calling and what (offensive coordinator) Mike (Kafka's) calling and what we see. And he's in plenty of them. Some of them. Obviously, we didn't get to some of them. I thought the plays he was in on, he did his job. Made a good decision on the one play down there at the end to take care of the football and get four yards."

Given the burst he showed on the jet sweep and the flashes he showed as a rookie last year, does Toney need to be more involved?

"We'll see," Daboll said. "I mean, whatever we think we got to do for that week. We got a bunch of receivers active. We'll figure out ways to put him in a game. Maybe it's less. Maybe it's more. Each week is different. Who's inactive might be different. I think it depends on everything leading up to it. That's why we make those decisions."

*Starting cornerback Aaron Robinson, who participated in 62 of the 65 defensive snaps in Tennessee, will not play Sunday against Carolina after having his appendix removed today.

The Giants are not speculating about Robinson's potential return date.

"I don't know if anybody can really tell you how long when it comes to that," Daboll said. "So, just wish him well. Took care it as soon as we could, and next man up mentality."

And which men might those be?

"We have guys on the roster, whether they're on the practice squad, that are going to compete – (rookie Cor'Dale) Flott; (Fabian) Moreau; (Nick) McCloud, we'll see where he's at; Zyon (Gilbert); (Justin) Layne. So, we got a group in there that will work to compete, and we'll end up picking like we usually do on Friday evening."

*Neither of the Giants' Robinsons practiced today. Rookie wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson sat out with a knee injury suffered against the Titans.

"He's grinding back," Daboll said. "I'd say the difference of him from the day after the game to even today is pretty significant. So, we'll see how it goes. We're not going to put him out there today. But he's gotten a lot better just in those two days."

Cornerback Nick McCloud (hamstring) was the third Giants player who did not participate in practice.

*Four players were limited: linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee), defensive end Azeez Ojulari (calf), center Jon Feliciano (lower leg) and defensive back Jason Pinnock (shoulder).

*Rookie safety Dane Belton practiced fully for the first time since injuring his clavicle in training camp.