EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When the deadline for Saquon Barkley to sign a multi-year contract extension passed without he and the Giants reaching an agreement on July 17, it seemed negotiations between the two sides had come to at least a temporary end.
But Joe Schoen saw it as a beginning.
"You don't spend nine-and-a-half-months on this if you don't want to get something done," Schoen said Wednesday. "So, as soon as the deadline passed, I called his representative and said, 'Okay, that's all in the past, there is nothing we can do about it; what we can focus on is how to get Saquon here on Tuesday (when the players reported for training camp).' That was our main focus for the rest of the time. I commend (agent) Ed Berry and CAA (Creative Artists Agency). Again, a lot of communication back-and-forth and phone calls and spit balling different ideas. Just really excited and glad that we were able to get Saquon here yesterday."
That occurred after Barkley signed his one-year deal that keeps the two-time Pro Bowl running back in a Giants uniform for the 2023 season.
"At the end of the day, we couldn't come to an agreement on a longer-term deal, but we circled back on Monday and fortunately were able to come to an agreement with altering the franchise tag a little bit to get him to camp," Schoen said. "We're ecstatic, fired up that Saquon's going to be here for the start of camp."
"He's a very good player and a good leader for us," coach Brian Daboll said. "As a coach, you want all your players here. I think that (Barkley's first-day arrival) says a lot about Saquon, too. I have a great amount of respect for him, great amount of appreciation and love for him, and glad he's in the building. I know his teammates are glad, and good day to start out."
View photos from the first practice of training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Schoen and Daboll held a joint news conference before today's first camp practice and several Giants players spoke afterward. A consistent theme throughout the conversations with the media was the respect and admiration everyone has for Barkley.
"We're obviously thrilled to have him back," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "It was a tough situation for him, and I'm glad that we got it worked out. He's an incredible leader on this team. He's an incredible player and means so much to this group. So yeah, it's huge to get him back."
"Obviously, we are all glad to have him," safety Xavier McKinney said. "It was good to have him out there. Like I said, just know what he means to our team … a lot, leadership wise, play wise. Another great guy. He's a hell of a player. He's one of those guys where he is a generational talent and just glad to have him."
The lingering question is why the two sides were unable to agree on a multi-year contract.
"I'm just glad he's here," Schoen said. "There's nothing we can do about that. My focus was getting him here on day one and he's here on day one. We're fired up about it.
"Again, we talked for over nine and a half months, and we came to a landing spot, and they came to a landing spot, and we couldn't bridge the gap. That's okay. Saquon has to do what's best for him and his family and I respect the hell out of Saquon. I'm never going to tell somebody to do something that they don't think is right. So, again, I respect Saquon, I admire him, I'm glad he's here. Again, we weren't able to get something done long term, but he's here and, again, I'm fired up that he's going to be on the field today."
Barkley belongs in any conversation concerning the Giants' – and the NFL's – very best players. In 2022, he rushed for a career-high 1,312 yards, was the team's co-leader with 57 receptions, and scored 10 touchdowns, plus two more in the Giants' wild-card victory in Minnesota.
"He's a very good player, he's a good teammate," Schoen said. "He's somebody we tried hard and long to get a deal done with. We're a better football team with Saquon here to start training camp."
Daboll communicated with Barkley when possible, during the long negotiating process.
"Saquon and I have a really good relationship," Daboll said. "We have communicated a lot and he's here, ready to go and excited to be here. And I'm excited that he's here."
He's not alone.
Daboll did not try to inspire his players with a rousing speech to open camp.
"I'm not a big talker at the first couple days of training camp," he said. "There's a lot of anxiety for a lot of these players. I think you lay out clear standards, clear expectations of what you expect in the meeting rooms, in the building, on the practice field and everybody has to buy into the program, which we have a lot of good people in our building. Not just players, but support staff, people on the business side, trainers, equipment, they're all involved in that meeting. A lot of it is logistics."
"Today (the message) was really go out there and compete. There's going to be a lot of mistakes that'll be made. We're going to try to put you in difficult situations; move on to the next play as quick as you can. Support your teammates. Go out there and play as hard and smart as you can. Again, today is kind of page one of the of the 2023 season. A long way to go, let's just take it day by day and get better each day."
Daboll was asked what he wants to see from Jones in training camp.
"His job is to make good decisions and lead the team down to score points, regardless of a new contract or anything like that," Daboll said. "That's his job. So, he has to focus on continual improvement, just like everybody else does. That's what training camp is for, and that's what we'll try to do."
The New York Giants have reported to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the start of training camp.