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Saquon Barkley will miss Odell Beckham, but is focused on improving

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Saquon Barkley will keep working, even without Odell Beckham

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

While we were all distracted by the run up to the 2019 NFL Draft, the New York Giants started the first phase of their off-season program.

For now that just means the players getting together and lifting in the Giants’ facilities — they won’t be able to have much contact at all with the coaches or do much of anything that resembles football for a while yet. But it also gave the team a chance to hold a series of press conferences in advance of next week’s draft.

The highlight of the day was GM Dave Gettleman’s press conference, but the Giants also made several players available, including last year’s first round selection, Saquon Barkley.

On the Odell Beckham Jr. trade

A little over a year ago, one of the perceived positives of selecting Saquon Barkley is that the Giants would have him and Odell Beckham together for the next five years. They also would have had Evan Engram and potentially Sterling Shepard for a significant portion of those years. In a passing league, it was believed that would be a fantastic environment into which the team could bring a young quarterback.

But Barkley and Beckham also believed that they could have great, complementary, careers as a dynamic duo.

But that just wasn’t meant to be, Barkley said, “Like you said, Odell is a really good friend of mine. We expected to have a great career with each other but unfortunately, that does not happen. It does not change anything with our friendship. He is in Cleveland and I am in New York. We are one phone call away and not that many miles away. That is not going to change our friendship, but for the team, one thing we can focus on is the team right now. Just like in Cleveland, he has to focus on Cleveland and we have to focus on ourselves right now, continue to get better and move on.”

In fact, it wasn’t the potential of playing with (arguably) the best receiver in the game that Barkley will miss, but having his friend and “big brother” in the locker room.

“He [Beckham] called me right before it got out to the news,” Barkley said. “He talked to me and was a big brother like he always was. He gave great advice. To see him go, it sucks, but like I said in the interview with Taylor Rooks, it is sad to see people go but we have to keep it moving. We have to continue to get better and continue to grow. That is where we are at as a team right now. We have to continue to believe in each other and take it to another level next year.”

On getting better

Perhaps the most appealing thing about Barkley as a prospect wasn’t his size, speed, or agility, but his eagerness to put in the work to improve. And while it is clear that the Giants’ offense is going to be run through him, he says that doesn’t motivate him to find something to improve. He was going to do that anyway.

“It [the Beckham trade] does not change anything for me,” Barkley said. “That was my mindset. Just have to continue to grow. That is how I am as a competitor. Find new things and challenge myself. That is what I am going to continue to do throughout my career. Obviously there are many things on the field, whether it is pass blocking or catching the ball. Off the field, fill more of a leadership role. Being more vocal, stepping up and challenging people. I was not able to be part of this phase last year. Now I am part of it. Do what I know, work, compete and when I’m out there, challenge Wayne (Gallman), have Wayne challenge me, challenge Evan (Engram) to take our team to another level.”

Barkley added, “Obviously, my competitive nature would love to be the best player in the league and the best running back in the league, but I think you could make an argument that I was one of the best running backs in the league last year and we went 5-11 to account for it. My mindset is whatever it takes to take this team to another level and compete for a championship, whether that is 2,000 yards, 1,500 yards or 800 yards.”

On the draft

While fans love the Draft — finding out who will be the newest members of their favorite team or watching young men have dreams come true — Barkley is not a fan. While we will all be waiting and watching in anticipation, he’ll be doing other things.

“No, I will not watch [the draft],” Barkley said. “The draft is long. For me, I got out there the second pick and it felt long for me. I could not imagine a Lamar, who had to wait till the 30th pick. Will I watch? Probably not. I will probably spend more time with my family or with the guys. I am anxious because there are some new teammates that are going to come in. It is obviously above my pay grade, so I have no idea who we are going to be drafting but I hope whoever we draft they are ready to come in and compete.”

But while Barkley said that the draft is above his pay grade, he did mention that not only does he already know Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins, the two have a history. Barkley said, “I got to see him on TV against Penn State. I was into that game. It was a heartbreaking loss at home for us. Me and Dwayne go way back. He was actually the Rivals Quarterback MVP and I was the Rivals Running Back MVP. He was the guy that was throwing to me at that Maryland camp. He is young and talented. He has a great career ahead of him and wherever he ends up, I wish him the best.”

Who knows, maybe the two will be reunited in a week’s time.