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Saquon Barkley is never satisfied, and that’s good news for the Giants

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No one has higher expectations for Saquon Barkley than himself.

NFL: New York Giants-Rookie Minicamp Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Blend in. Be one of the guys. Average and ordinary. Just another teammate.

Saquon Barkley tried to do this on Friday, his first day at the New York Giants rookie camp, even though he is little of that. Of course, it’s the proper thing to do – but it’s a delicate dance.

There is only one player in this camp who was the draft’s No. 2 pick.

There is only one player here who chirped just days before the draft about his potential marketing prowess and about his chance to become “the face of the NFL.’’

Only one player here received a phone call from Giants coach Pat Shurmur the week of the draft about that Sports Illustrated article.

“Yes, he (Shurmur) called me and asked about it, wanted to know what motivated me to do it,’’ Barkley said. “My team and agents at Roc Nation wanted me to do that story for the business side of my career. I told coach I didn’t read it, that I don’t read the stories about me — I just try to live it. I was told it was pretty good. But I think like anything, people could take a different view. I told him I just tried to answer a simple question about how I view myself as a business person. I was straight up to coach about it. I think they wanted to know one thing for sure, that football is the most important thing. I told him, you can be certain, football is the most important thing.’’

The Giants were wringing their hands and banging their heads over this issue before the draft, wondering if Barkley had fooled them all and if he was actually incapable, when required, of blending in, being one of the guys, average and ordinary, just another teammate. They wondered – and not alone among NFL teams – if this Barkley/Roc Nation duo in future instances would be a headache worth drafting.

Barkley calmed their fears.

For quite a while now, he has been mastering the art of being ordinary while being magnificent.


He was at it again at the Giants rookie camp, moving gracefully from the podium to TV interviews to smaller media chats. He was at it with his teammates, letting them know, he said, that he was here to help them and would ask for their help when he needed it.

Barkley talked a lot about expectations.

Those of others. And his own.

He told me, in a quiet, reflective moment: “I think people meet me and they know about me as a player and they expect me to be cocky. But I was raised in a way that even though people expect that view, that will never be how I perceive myself. I get a lot of attention playing football but I’ve always earned respect. I would be this way even if I wasn’t drafted at all. My parents taught me not to get too high and get so swayed by attention because it’s great when you are riding high, but when the downfalls come it’s a totally different view.’’

He said if he was not an NFL player he would be doing something special, “making an impact.’’ At age 13, he thought for sure he would become a boxer.

Those are useful skills that would fit – the jab, the floating, absorbing the sting – as he navigates his transition from Penn State and college football to the Giants and the NFL.

Shurmur said that regardless of his own expectations of Barkley that Barkley has to “come here and do it.’’

Prize rookie guard Will Hernandez said he is keeping Barkley close, usually keeping Barkley right behind him, expecting him to get used to following him on the field and flashing through the holes that Hernandez plans to blast open.

Barkley is a recent father to a baby girl (Jada) and is a new foundation for the Giants. He said he is more than a running back, that he can catch it, kick return it, block, play in the slot – he was clearly annoyed at the angst from some people spewing that no running back should ever be drafted at the No. 2 overall spot. His new playbook is big, but he said he is finding it easier to learn here with coaches and teammates instead of trudging through it alone. He said he is going to be humble. He said he is going to act like a pro. It’s a lot on his plate, keeping his feet planted, living up to all of the expectations.

There’s that word again.


His Penn State teammate, cornerback Grant Haley, is here in this Giants rookie camp.

Haley said that Barkley “breaks the mold.’’ That Barkley always expects more of himself. That Barkley is hardly ever satisfied.

“I think people here in New York should get ready for a player who has great confidence,’’ Haley said. “He expects himself to be perfect every single time. This is the way he approaches the game on the field. And if he does not meet his expectations, he is not going to be happy. He is going to do what it takes to correct it the next time he has an opportunity. He has amazing confidence.’’

Just what you’d expect.