Ramses Barden said when he became a free agent during the offseason that it was "probably best" that he move on after four seasons as a backup for the New York Giants.
Well, Barden is back with the Giants for a fifth season. He signed a one-year, $780,000 deal to return to New York after apparently not finding other offers to his liking during free agency.
Barden sat down with me for a chat before practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center recently. The 27-year-old was fiesty during our conversation.
His response to whether or not he was surprised to be back with the Giants, which was the first question I asked him, set the tone.
"No, I signed the contract! How would I be surprised if I signed it?," Barden said.
Here is what Barden said on SiriusXM NFL Radio when he became a free agent following the 2012 season:
"I'm really kind of excited for the offseason, because as much fun as I've had in New York -- yeah, I was comfortable there -- it's probably best for me to start looking in other places for a new system, a refreshed sense of welcoming. I think everybody can benefit from newness in their lives at a certain time, and this is going to be one of those for me. ... I was always the team player, I was always working, a lot of times I was open -- and there's no ill feelings from me. I had a great experience with the Giants. Had I had more opportunities to seize, I would have seized them, and I'm confident in that.
"A dog sheds, an animal sheds, and they become bigger and grow into a new skin, a new coat. And this is just my process, this is my evolution as a receiver where I feel like I'm ready for something new."
That's a pretty definitive "it's time for me to move on" statement. Despite that, Barden told me he "wanted to be back here" with the Giants.
"I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t expect to. I wanted to be back here, this would have been my No. 1 choice. I’m happy to be home.
"They drafted me, I’ve grown here, I’ve learned the system, I’ve got friends here, New York is a great place to play football. This is home as far as my profession is concerned."
Barden was drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Giants, who traded up to the 85th overall pick to select the 6-foot-6, 230-pound receiver from Cal-Poly.
There was a great deal of hype when the Giants moved up to draft Barden, and hope that he would become the next Plaxico Burress or Harold Carmichael, the 6-foot-8 behemoth who starred at receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles for 13 seasons thru the 1970s and '80s. Barden had 206 receptions for 4,203 yards and an incredible 50 touchdowns at Cal-Poly.
That small-school domination has yet to translate at the NFL level. Barden has just 29 catches in four seasons in the NFL, none for touchdowns. He had a career-best 14 receptions in 2012, with nine of those coming in a Week 3 blowout victory over the Carolina Panthers.
How does Barden answer the perception that his first four seasons with the Giants did not live up to expectations?
"I answer it with I'm responsible for who I am, I take responsibility for everything I've done on the field. I have no regrets," Barden said. "There might be certain things I would do differently if given the opportunity again, but not much. There's not much I've had the opportunity to do different.
"I've put in 100 percent effort, 100 percent energy, I've been dedicated, I've worked hard. I can't ask much more of myself."
[Related: Barden a riddle wrapped inside an enigma]
So far, Barden's training camp has been typical of what he has done every summer since being drafted in 2009. He has caught the ball consistently, proving to be too much for the likes of Terrence Frederick, Laron Scott and Trumaine McBride to handle.
"I know when I line up I'm going to beat the person across from me. When the ball's thrown to me I'm going to make the catch and I'm probably gonna make somebody miss and get some extra yards," Barden said. "That's enough for me."
A season ago Barden talked about how his training camp success still had not translated to game days.
"That's kind of what they're [the Giants] waiting for," Barden said. "They were able to see some of that last year. In practice it's, ‘Here we go again, great catch.' They've seen enough of that. I've seen enough of it. I'm confident to do those things in practice and I'm confident to do them in a game. But I have to do them with that consistency, with that professionalism, so it's, ‘He made a good play, but we expect him to make those good plays.' I want that expectation. When you have that confidence behind you, it's amazing what you can do."
With the exception of the nine-catch Carolina game, the Giants are still waiting. Will Ramses II be more successful than Ramses I with the Giants? Is there even a spot on the roster for The Pharoah?
"I don't try to figure out a role, I don't look at the depth chart. That doesn't really make too much sense for me. My job, my goal my responsibility here is to be the best Ramses I can absolutely be," Barden said. "That's being diligent with my footwork, catching everything that's thrown to me, using my size, using my height. I know that when it comes to me I'm going to make a play."