Saquon Barkley takes the field for his first practice as a Giant at rookie minicamp:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley was the consensus best player available in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the second overall selection by the Giants. He is expected to be the workhorse in the running game, lead an offensive renaissance, and even help prolong Eli Manning's career.
So what does Barkley think of these expectations, which one reporter today labeled "sky high" during a news conference at the Giants' rookie minicamp?
"I don't see them," Barkley said. "I know a lot of people try and set expectations for me. No offense to you guys, but I set my own expectations. I don't care what anyone says in terms of that I have to rush for this or score this. It does not matter to me. I set my own expectations and have my own standards. If I follow you guys, not saying you guys but the media, and try and reach expectations of the fans and the media because I am a high draft pick, if I follow that, I will never become a great player. It starts with myself. I have to believe in myself, set goals for myself, set expectations for myself, and continue to work for those goals every single day."
Barkley certainly doesn't carry himself like a star-in-waiting. Actually, he sounded like most rookies – somewhat in awe of his new circumstances and most concerned with correctly carrying out his assignments.
Take, for example, his response when asked what it is like to be a member of the Giants and working out of the team's Quest Diagnostics Training Center:
"It's amazing," he said. "It finally hit me. It really didn't hit me after I got drafted, but being able to walk into this building, going on a tour, seeing the facility and being back with football people, my teammates and players and to start building that relationship, it is an honor to play for this franchise. Right when you walk in the building, you see the four Lombardi Trophies and you already know what the standard is for this team and this program. I am just happy to be a part of it."
Approximately 60 players are participating in the camp, the majority on a tryout basis. But all eyes are on Barkley as he takes his first handoffs and catches his first passes in a Giants uniform.
When asked what he hopes to show the coaches, Barkley broke new ground for setting modest goals.
"Just that I am a hard worker," he said. "That I am willing to learn and that I am coachable. Obviously, it is a new system for me and for everyone it is going to be different. Everyone will have struggles, but I am willing to learn and I am coachable. Going to try and lead at a young age and start working with the young guys, the rookies. Just try and continue to have fun and play the game I love."
Coach Pat Shurmur is thrilled to have Barkley, but he's not making grand predictions nor putting pressure on his prized pupil.
"I'm certainly high on Saquon," Shurmur said. "But that goes back to let's train them the right way. He's a member of this team. If you ask him, he'll tell you he wants to learn what he's doing and compete at a high level and regardless of what my expectations are for him, he has to come out here and train and do it. That's what's really cool about him is that he has that mindset."
In three seasons at Penn State, Barkley rushed for 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns. He also had 102 receptions, and scored on eight of them. At times, the game looked easy for him. But being an NFL player and playing for the Giants forces him to perform in unfamiliar territory.
"The difference is the playbook," he said. "Definitely the playbook and the system. Going out and always being in the (shot)gun in college and working out of the 'I', which I feel very comfortable doing. That is the difference. It is a different feel and it is obviously the system. At the end of the day, it is football. It is just like we are freshmen all over again. I keep telling those guys that we are starting stuff all over, but we are going to get the system and the playbook down. Just take it day-by-day and step-by-step. I am learning stuff every day."
He believes that curve will not be too sharp.
"I think personally, I learn really quick," he said. "A lot of things are different, I guess you could say, but we ran a lot of similar stuff in college except it had different terminology. Instead of running out of the gun all the time, they run out of the 'I'. That is really the biggest difference in terminology. It is harder to learn by yourself. I had the playbook before and was looking over it, and it is hard to learn there. It is easier to learn when (running backs) coach (Craig) Johnson is in front, and he is telling you this and this. This is why we do this and this is why we do that. It starts to come to you quicker. The best way to learn is actually doing it on the field."
The last two years in college football, no one did it better than Saquon Barkley. Today he began the process that will help him be as prolific and impressive in a Giants uniform.