Saquon Barkley: 'Willing to do whatever' for Giants

ByJordan Raanan ESPN logo
Monday, May 14, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The roster for the New York Giants' rookie minicamp lists "RB" next to Saquon Barkley's name. Maybe it should say more.

Barkley views himself as "more than a running back." The No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft was hoping to prove that Friday, when he took the field for the first time in a Giants uniform.

"Completely more than a running back," Barkley said after Friday morning's walk-through. "... If you look at the past three years and you look at the history of the running back position -- of what [Ezekiel Elliott] and [Le'Veon Bell]are able to do -- when you look at those guys, they are more than running backs. I view myself as more than a running back."

This is the argument Bell, a three-time Pro Bowl running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has made as he lobbies for a long-term contract. Bell rushed for 1,291 yards and had 85 receptions last season.

Barkley rushed for 1,271 yards last season at Penn State. He caught 54 passes for 632 yards and added two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

It's this skill set that prompted the Giants to declare Barkley the best player in the draft. General manager Dave Gettleman gave Barkley only his second perfect grade for a prospect; the other went to Peyton Manning in 1998.

"I'm not a guy that you just line up in the backfield and is just going bang his head, bang his head, bang his head," Barkley said. "I'm a guy that is willing to do whatever it is for the team, whether it is a kick returner, whether it be a punt returner, whether it be running down on kickoffs, whether it's line up in the slot, whether it's run a dummy play, fake play.

"Whatever it takes. I want to be an athlete. I'm not just a running back. I play the running back position. I want to be an all-around back and all-around player."

Gettleman said after making the pick two weeks ago that Barkley's presence alone should improve the running game, offensive line, passing game and even the defense by keeping that unit off the field.

Rookie minicamp, which runs through Sunday, will provide the Giants their first up-close glimpse of Barkley's ability.

"I think what we're looking to see is how well he picks up this system," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We're very confident he'll be able to do everything well. And just see how he works in like everybody else -- how he runs the ball, how he catches the ball, his awareness in pass protection -- all the things we're going to ask him to do moving forward."

The transition will be a process. Barkley said the playbook is different. He was working out of the shotgun almost exclusively at Penn State. Now he is running some plays out of the I-formation with the Giants.

That's not going to temper expectations. The Giants made it clear they were looking for a "gold jacket" -- Hall of Fame player -- with the No. 2 overall pick. Barkley, however, insists he is not buying into the hype.

"My expectations for myself right now would be to just continue to come in, be humble," he said. "I don't want to be that guy that's viewed as he thinks he's a high draft pick and he got it all.

"Nothing's given to you; everything's earned. I have that mindset that you got to work for every single thing, learn every single day, be a student of the game, learn from the guys and the coaches, learn from [Eli Manning] and [Odell Beckham] on the field and off the field. Work, be a worker."