EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley is the leader of the Giants' impressive rookie class, but he is also perfectly content to follow the example set by the team's accomplished veterans.
Barkley, the running back from Penn State taken second overall in last month's NFL Draft, is trying to glean as much knowledge and pick up as many tips as he can from fellow back Jonathan Stewart and quarterback Eli Manning, who have played a combined 24 NFL seasons.
"Stewart is an awesome dude," Barkley said today after the team's organized team activity (OTA). "Obviously, he is a great vet. I'm just over here trying to watch him, trying to learn from him every single day and all the vets and all the running backs let me come in with open arms and it's been great. They are great leaders and I look forward to continuing learning from them throughout my career."
Stewart, who has rushed for 7,318 yards and 51 touchdowns in 131 regular-season games, is happy to mentor not only Barkley, but second-year pro Wayne Gallman and youngsters Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin.
"I'll share a little bit of my wisdom with all of the guys that have questions," Stewart said. "The main thing is just take care of your body. I can't say it enough."
Stewart also counsels young players to exercise patience.
"Respect the process," he said. "When it comes to learning the offense, just give yourself some time and be dedicated to it. You only get what you put in. But the main thing is, respect the process and control what you can control."
Stewart said he can "definitely" see why the Giants were so eager to draft Barkley.
"He's a smart football player, he picks things up very fast," Stewart said. "He's explosive and he's really good in his route running. Actually, we talked about it today, that's one of the things that he's really focused on, is his ability to run routes. And you can see that today, for sure."
Stewart is not just dispensing advice. He is still working on his craft and believes Barkley can teach him a few pointers.
Asked what he can teach Stewart, Barkley said, "I don't know. That's a good question. I would say the best thing for me personally is to continue coming in here and working every single day. Obviously, he is a great vet and a great leader and a great worker, but if I continue to work and push myself every day, then it's going to push him every single day and it's going to push the running back room and make the running back room as whole better."
Barkley is also working to develop a chemistry with Manning, the two-time Super Bowl MVP who is preparing for his 15th season as the Giants' starting quarterback.
"It has been amazing," Barkley said. "Obviously, he is a great guy; he's a great quarterback. But he's so knowledgeable about the game - he knows every single play where you're supposed to be, where everybody is supposed to be, and literally he can look this way and this guy ran a wrong route and he knows that guy already ran a wrong route. So I just continue to learn from him every single day and ask a lot of questions. I think I'm probably annoying to him a little bit, but I continue to ask him a lot of questions and I just want to expand on my knowledge of the game because that's going to make me a better player and if I can continue to grow as a better player, then I can continue to help the team."
*Odell Beckham, Jr. can't fully participate in the practices (because of his 2017 ankle surgery), but has done some individual drills, and works on the side with strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman.
"He looks good," coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's out here moving around, he's champing at the bit wanting to get out and do more than we're allowing him to do at this point. But I think we're just trying to make sure that everything is healed to the fullest before we put him out there."
Shurmur said the fifth-year pro still benefits by being here, despite having to watch the team portion of practice.
"He can't fully compete yet," Shurmur said, "but he gets a chance to see it and there is a lot to be learned by watching, and it's good to have him here."
*Shurmur praised Ereck Flowers, who has moved from left to right tackle.
"He did a nice job today," Shurmur said. "We've had him in for a week, as you all know, and he's kind of just fit right in there with everybody. I wasn't all that pressured up about it and I'm glad he's here and I'm getting to know him. I said it with Eli (Apple), clean slate. He's out here competing and I think that's what's most important."
*Shurmur, a former high school pitcher, threw out the first pitch before the Mets-Diamondbacks game in Citi Field yesterday. It was not his best effort; the throw was wide of the plate, and catcher Devin Mesoraco caught the ball on a bounce.
"I was wasting a pitch. That's what I was doing," Shurmur said, laughing. "Like some good pitchers might. There are certain things that you try to not redo.
"Fortunately, I have another job. What you gain is an appreciation. You warm up and I was warming up in the back and things seemed like they were all right and I remembered back to when I played, but it's a different perspective when you're standing on the mound. It gives you a great appreciation. I've always had a great appreciation for baseball and the ability to hit a ball and certainly pitch a ball. But it was a fun day."
Photos from the Giants first OTA practice of the 2018 offseason!