RB Saquon Barkley
December 3, 2020
Q: Jabrill (Peppers) spoke to us right after you were injured. He said, ‘minor setback for a major comeback.’ How are you approaching it?
A: I appreciate the words from Jabrill. But for me right now, my approach right now is just focus on the little things. That’s coming in every single day, trusting the medical staff, trusting the trainers and all those guys, just knowing that they’re putting me in the right positions to recover as best as I can.
Q: Do you feel you’re making some nice progress?
A: That’s the goal. Get one percent better every single day, take the little wins. That’s what I try to come and do every single day.
Q: In terms of your approach, obviously, you’re a competitor so I know you want this thing over yesterday. How do you adjust your mindset? Is that a challenge, if not publicly just privately, of kind of setting yourself up and not getting too far ahead of yourself?
A: Yeah, it’s definitely a challenge. Just the fact that the game that I love and been playing since I was seven is taken away from me a little bit. That definitely is challenging. But I’m just trying to be as supportive as I can. I love seeing my guys out there balling, doing their thing, especially the way we’re playing right now. That definitely makes life a lot easier. I have a lot of great people in my corner, with my family, my friends staying with me and pushing me through. That’s really the focus. Yes, I’m a competitor, and like you said, I would love to have this over yesterday. But that’s not the case, so just have to come with that mindset of taking the same approach as I would if I was on the football field, trying to get better every single day, taking that into rehab.
Q: Did you have to go through any kind of levels of grieving in a way? Do you know what I mean? The ‘why me?’ stage, the ‘I can’t believe this,’ and kind of go through a bunch of maybe dark places to see some light there? Or was it not like that for you? These surgeries and ACLs with athletes can be mind-blowing to people. How did you get through this or have you gotten through this?
A: I think, so far, I’ve been doing pretty well. But I imagine there are going to be some more dark places coming up. I would say really, probably the darkest time for me was right when it happened. Even though it wasn’t diagnosed what it was, I kind of had a feeling what happened. Obviously, that kind of brings you to tears. It’s tough in that moment. I know how hard I worked. I know how hard we worked as a team and what I wanted to help this team do this year, and I knew that was all taken away at that moment. But kind of have to suck it up. You can’t cry about it too long. You can’t complain about it too long. You have to move on. Everything happens for a reason. I have to have that mindset. Like I said, I have amazing people in my life, an amazing team and an amazing staff here and teammates and all those guys who help me and are continuing to help me get through this.
Q: Do you have a target date in mind for when you want to be back 100 percent?
A: No, no target date in mind. Just coming every single day trying to get one percent better, and continuing to trust in the medical staff and the trainers here.
Q: I don’t know when the next time we’ll talk, so I have to ask you this now. You would have been in line for a big payday this offseason. How does this impact that in your mind?
A: I don’t really focus on it. Not really focused on money or anything right now. I’m really focusing on trying to come in every single day and get one percent better. Whatever that day is, I can come back and be ready for my team.
Q: What do you think of the way the Giants are running the ball right now? Does this offensive line remind you at all of the one you had to run behind the first two weeks? And Wayne’s (Gallman) performance?
A: Wayne Train, I’m so proud of him. He’s playing amazing. Not only him, but Alfred (Morris), EP (Eli Penny), the offensive line, they’re playing amazing. I remember after the Steelers game, when obviously, I guess you could say the run game wasn’t so pretty, I remember talking to the offensive line right there and saying, ‘We know what we have here. We’re going to get this thing figured out.’ Honestly, I wish I was able to be a part of it. But I’m still part of it to be completely honest. That’s my mindset. I’m still part of it in a way. But to see those guys open up those holes and seeing the running backs run in a way that Wayne is running is honestly amazing. It’s really helped the team.
Q: There’s a lot of ifs involved with this question, but do you think that there’s any possibility that you could be back for a game if the Giants play on February 7th?
A: I’m just really focusing on coming back and trying to get one percent better every single day.
Q: It’ll be three and a half months. That’s around when people start to run.
A: That’s interesting. I did not know that.
Q: Can you talk about why you waited for the surgery?
A: The surgery, I did my MCL also, too, and it’s just smarter to let the MCL heal itself and get sticky. I wasn’t in a rush. Have a great medical staff and a great team here, and obviously, working with Dr. (Neal) ElAttrache in LA, all together came up with the idea that I should wait it out. It’ll be better for me in the long run. That was the mindset and that’s what we did.
Q: Besides your teammates, have any other NFL players, current or past, reached out to you? Players that have had the same ACL/MCL surgery, whether it’s just encouraging you or also offering you any advice about your recovery?
A: A lot. A lot of people reached out to me during the day I actually hurt my ACL. But weirdly, the day before, I broke my phone on the plane flight there. I tried to log in or whatever with Apple, the two-step factor whatever. I lost pretty much all my contacts, so a lot of people are probably out there thinking that I didn’t respond or I’m going through a tough time. No, it’s just my phone didn’t really work. I’m still seeing messages now. Someone who’s really important to me would be AP (Adrian Peterson). Obviously, when you hear this injury, the first person that comes to your mind is the season that AP had. I forgot but I think I reached out to him or he reached out to me. He put me in contact with his trainer, I was able to ask him a lot of questions. Also, I think the day before surgery, I got to chat with AP for a very long time. I could see myself continuing to chat with him throughout.
Q: I’m curious what the last couple of months have been like for you. Have you been involved at all with the team? Have you been communicating with Wayne and the other backs? What has your role been through all of this as you’re going through your rehab?
A: Honestly, I kind of got back a week or two ago. Obviously, I was staying in communication with the guys over text and FaceTime calls. But I was in LA. I was in LA after surgery. I was supposed to stay out there for a month, but I kind of just missed it. It didn’t feel the same. It didn’t feel like home. I was just happy to be able to come back and be back in the locker room, see those guys’ faces and be able to have those conversations with them. But yeah, that’s kind of been my role. I try to come in with a smile on my face, and come in and work. The opportunities I do get to interact with the team, obviously, now with everything going into Zoom, just try to do the best I can and cherish those times and those moments.
Q: Obviously there have been guys like AP (Adrian Peterson) who have recovered from ACL surgery and gone on to do great things. There are some who haven’t though. How convinced are you and why would you be convinced that when you return from this you will be the same player?
A: That’s the mindset. I’m never going to go in it with a negative approach. I feel like you should never go into anything in life with a negative approach. I think a positive mindset is going to be the thing that helps you get through a lot of things in life. That’s the mindset I’m going to have. I know that I’m going to be able to come out and be a better player. That’s what I’m going to challenge myself with. I know that starts with today. In rehab right now, I had to come by to talk to you guys, but I just go right back into rehab and continue to push myself.
Q: What did they tell you about the likelihood of you getting back to 100 percent? You mentioned the MCL, so they did a full MCL repair as well? What about the meniscus part of it?
A: No, they didn’t do an MCL repair, they were able to save my meniscus. My MCL healed on its own. The likelihood of me coming back to 100 percent, what they’re saying is it’s kind of all on how you attack it. You have to be smart with the first six or seven weeks, obviously because of the meniscus repair. I’m continuing to be smart with it. At the end of the day, they say when you do a ACL reconstruction, the ACL becomes ten times stronger, to be honest. I’m just trying to come in with the mindset of getting one percent better every day. Continuing to trust the training staff, trust Leigh (Weiss) and all those guys. Just take it day by day.
Q: So, when you say meniscus repaired, they didn’t take it out? They just sewed it back together kind of deal?
A: Which is a really good thing, to be honest.
Q: Any doubt in your mind that you’re going to be the same player, better player?
A: No doubt in my mind.
Q: What would you say to people who see that video of you out with no mask and on the bike who would say that indicates you don’t take this virus seriously?
A: That’s a good question. I would say I do take the virus seriously. I think that we let our guard down, to be completely honest. We were trying to do it the right way. That little moment wherever that was captured just came off negatively. We actually were trying to do it the right way. I really do take this virus seriously. I was really in the forefront, I guess you could say, of trying to do things. Whether it was working with Campbells and food banks to give food during the Coronavirus. Even if it was doing little videos to help raise awareness, to help raise money for it. I truly want to say I apologize for that. As a leader of this team and being one of the faces of this franchise, I have to be better for us.
Q: Why did you choose Dr. (Neal) ElAttrache rather than having a surgery here with the team doctors. Will you play next season if you don’t have a new contract?
A: I would say with the Dr. ElAttrache and Dr. Rodeo, I’m very blessed to be in a position where I can pick from the top in the world. It wasn’t I like this one better or I like that one better. It was kind of with my agent Kim (Miale) and my manager Ken (Katz) on what we think we should do. Obviously, I think you guys do know I train in L.A. for the offseason. Most of the time I’m out there, so that did come into play, too. With the contract question, if I’m going to play, like I said, I’m not really focused with that. I’m focusing on getting one percent better and attacking it day to day.
Q: What has your day to day been like? On Sundays when you’re not on the sideline, what is Sunday like when you’re watching the game almost as a fan, I guess?
A: I’ll be honest, Sunday sucks and it’s good at the same time, especially when we win. When we win, you still feel that joy even though I’m not on the field. It’s also that sitting on the couch watching and you feel helpless. You can’t do anything, you can’t help your team at all. I would say Sundays are the toughest days, but the last three weeks they have been pretty good.
Q: You referenced some of the dark moments. Have there been some uplifting moments during this stretch? When you see some tangible progress?
A: Yeah, anytime you take a small win. That’s what I would say, any time I get a small win. Whether it’s one exercise or if I get a degree or two better than what I had the previous day. You have to take those small wins. I would say also even though I do miss football and I would love to be out there, I am getting a lot more quality time with my family and spending more time with my daughter.
Q: This team has been on the rise a little bit with Joe (Judge). How encouraged are you about what you have been seeing in the last month or so? How much does that make you kind of jones to get back there more and more and be a part of it?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s been in the last month or so. It’s been since we have been on the Zoom meetings (in the spring). You’re always excited for every year because every year is a new year you get to play the sport that you love. With the energy and the commitment, the leadership and just the standard that Coach Judge and all the coaches were setting from zoom meetings, I knew that this was going to be a year where we could really make some noise. Obviously, I only got to experience one or two games of it. Now we can see this thing is turning and going in the direction we want. That’s everything you want. We came in here with the mindset of you want to be able to compete and be able to play in January and play in February. We were given the chance to have that opportunity. It starts off with coming to practice this week, today, and attacking the day and try to win today.
Q: The first year was great, the second year was the ankle and this year was the knee. Do you sit down and say as well as I like playing well, I’m not superman? My body still rules my life.
A: No. I don’t say that at all. I’m a big believer in take care of the things you can take care. Control the things you can control. Two injuries so far that happened to me this year is two things I can’t control. It was in those cards that way. I’m just going to continue to attack every day. Continue to put my body in shape for however long I continue to play for to have a successful season. Hopefully, it works out for me that way. I don’t look it at that way, that I’m not superman. I never viewed myself as superman, I guess you could say. I want to say I put that on myself. I had an injury last year, I was able to overcome that and I had an injury this year. This is another challenge in the way that I have to be ready to face.