Saquon Barkley wants to be there when the New York Giants get back on a winning track.
The 24-year-old running back has seen plenty of losses since the Giants drafted him No. 2 overall in 2018, but he doesn’t want to go anywhere else despite speculation about his future in New York.
“I plan on being a big reason why we turn this thing around,” Barkley told The Associated Press on Tuesday for an upcoming episode of the AP Pro Football Podcast. “That’s just my mind-set, that’s my thought process. When I got drafted here, I said I want to be here for the rest of my life. I was born in New York, I’m from Pennsylvania. I live an hour and some change from my parents’ house. This is where I started my career, where I would love to finish my career. I know this thing is going to turn around and I would love to be a part of the reason it does.”
The Giants already picked up the fifth-year option on Barkley’s rookie contract so he’s signed for $7.2 million in 2022. Barkley only has 379 yards rushing in nine games this season after missing the final 14 games in 2020 because of a torn right ACL. He has missed 21 games since a spectacular rookie season when he gained more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage — 1,307 rushing and 721 receiving.
“I put a lot of hard work in the offseason and during the season with my knee, and also having to rehab my ankle,” Barkley said, mentioning the ankle injury that forced him to miss four games this year. “But last week, watching film, I felt like my burst was there a little bit. I felt like my explosiveness is there. I just have to keep going, keep trusting in the system, keep trusting my body, keep trusting the rehab and just keep my head down to keep working.”
The Giants (4-9) already secured their fifth straight losing season and eighth in nine years. Second-year coach Joe Judge’s job security is under scrutiny and general manager Dave Gettleman may not be around to even make that decision.
Judge said Monday the team is heading in the right direction even though its record doesn’t indicate it. He has Barkley’s support.
“I think we’ve bought in,” Barkley said. “We have the guys that are bought in. We work. We love football. We have guys who are committed to it. But that’s everywhere in the NFL. That’s why it’s so hard to win in the NFL.
“We have just been very unfortunate as a team, as an organization, whether it’s injuries or just the way we lost games. But it’s all part of the building process and it’s going to change at some point. And, when it does, it’s going to be a beautiful story.”
Barkley spent time Tuesday morning on a video call surprising Penn State commit Nick Singleton with news that he is the 2021-22 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year. Singleton rushed for 2,043 yards and 41 touchdowns on 165 carries this season for Governor Mifflin High School in Shillington, Pa.
The award recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.
“Anytime you can surprise a future Nittany Lion, it means a lot,” said Barkley, who had more than 5,000 scrimmage yards and 51 touchdowns in three seasons at Penn State. “The reason why I love this award is because you don’t just win it because of things you’re able to do on a football field. Obviously, it’s a prestigious award. It doesn’t get much bigger than this in high school. But you also have to be excellent in the classroom, in the community and to see him, at such a young age, really have that mind-set, you love to see that for the future for the Nittany Lions.”
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