Are New York Giants fans going to see star running back Saquon Barkley on the field before the regular season gets under way in September? We saw all four of the Giants’ quarterbacks in the first preseason game, but neither Barkley nor Evan Engram, two players who figure to be the centerpieces of the Giants’ offense in the coming year, took the field.
It would figure that we should see Engram in the second and third preseason games, as he does need to work with Eli Manning before the games count. But what about Barkley?
Pat Shurmur was asked that very question on Monday and his answer didn’t do lend much clarity, though it seems as though Barkley might not get much work in preseason.
“He’s getting a heck of a lot of reps here in practice,” Shurmur said. “I have a plan moving forward, and I said it with the quarterbacks last time, I’ll let it reveal itself. I think we’ll just have to see. We’ll just have to see as we move forward.”
Often times we hear players talk about needing to get hit before they really get in a “football” frame of mind, and like to get on the field for that purpose. Barkley says he doesn’t need to take a hit if he can avoid it.
“Yeah, I don’t think anyone needs to be hit,” Barkley said. “I think if everyone could choose not to get hit until Week 1 they would choose that. But you are right, some people like to get that first contact, (and) like to get that first hit. But for me, I’m the type of player that no matter if it Is preseason, playoffs or the regular season, once that first play goes and I get hit, I’m fine. Sometimes the first play can be a 60-yard touchdown and you’re fine. Just once I get to step on that field, whenever that opportunity is going to be, I’m going to go out there and try to lead and try to play to the best ability I can for my team.”
The pre-season is a time of attrition, and the teams that can make it through healthiest will be in the best position to compete when the games actually count. So not putting Barkley in position to take hits — or risk injury — certainly makes sense.
A year ago, almost to the day, Barkley tweaked his hamstring in practice. He was immediately listed as “day-to-day” and didn’t take the field in any of the remaining three preseason games having a strong showing in the first game,
Barkley said, “I think everyone’s different. For me personally, this day last year, or yesterday (last year), I strained my hamstring or whatever you want to call it, so I missed the rest of preseason. When I played the first week of the season and played the season last year I didn’t feel like I was out of shape, I didn’t feel like I needed more reps.”
But can any amount of practice reps — even a “heck of a lot,” really replicate a game situation?
“I think we did a really good job with taking live competitive reps here, even though we don’t tackle to the ground,” Barkley said. “We have a really great defense that gives me a really good look. Do I think I need it? I think it depends on the player. Every year is different. Am I ready if I have to? Yes, my mindset every week is to prepare to get ready to go out there and compete at a high level for my team, no matter if it’s one snap, two series, one quarter or if I don’t play. If I don’t play, I stay locked in and try to be the leader that I can to keep the energy and the vibes good on the sideline.”
So will we see Barkley before September? Only Pat Shurmur knows for sure. But if the Giants plan to change how they use Barkley from last year, they can’t accidentally tip their hand if he’s never on the field.