Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q. How does it feel for you to be here?
A: It feels good. Good to be back in the locker room, good to see familiar faces within the facility. I'm doing what I love. I'm out there playing football. I'm happy.
Q. Why did you decide to report on day one and not skip at least some of camp?
A: I had an epiphany.
Q. What does that mean?
A: The reality of it is, I mean, one, I kind of just followed my heart. Obviously, I heard what everyone was saying in the news and on social media, but I kind of just followed my heart. And then you've got to look at it from a business point, from a business view, I felt like, what's the best thing that I can do? Some people may agree or disagree with this, to sit out or sit in, and I feel like for this year specifically, the best thing that I can do for myself would be coming back, going out there and play the game that I love, playing for my teammates, doing something that I've wanted to do since I was a little kid.
Obviously, I know what's going on with the running back situation and me being tagged and the value of the running back continually going down. The only way that I feel like that's going to change is someone has to make it change. God willing, hopefully I can be one of the people to do it.
Q. When you say this year specifically, is that because you realize that if you're in this position again next year that you have more leverage on the backside of a second-year tagging?
A: The reason why I say this year specifically is because I can't see the future. I wish I could. All that I can focus on is now. If a certain situation comes up like this again next year, which obviously everyone's aware that can happen, I'll deal with it when that happens. But right now, I can't focus on if this happens, if that (happens). All I can focus on is who I am today, how I come in the building, and how I work and how I prepare for the season. Like I said, I feel like with everything that's going on in the running back market and everything that's going on with me being tagged, the only thing that is going to change that is by one of us going out there and making a change.
Q. The way that nine-and-a-half or 10 months of negotiations went, how would you describe it? Are you frustrated, angry, ticked off, are you over it? Because ultimately, it did not get you what you wanted I suppose.
A: Yeah, I mean, I could sit here and lie to you and be like, 'I wasn't disappointed, I wasn't this and that and the third.' I mean, that would just be a flat out lie. But I am mature enough to understand that it's a business and understand that deals don't get done every year. Specific to my position, we didn't get a deal done. Me and my team felt like we were in good faith trying to get a deal done, the Giants feel they were in a good faith trying to get a deal done, and that's life. Sometimes you don't come to an agreement. I had to come to a decision. Like I said, I had an epiphany. I had a mindset of what I was going to do, but I changed my mind.
Wise words of a lot of vets who've reached out to me and who have said some stuff on the news and media, 'When you show up, you can't have that in your heart.' It's not a good thing to have in your heart. So, I put all that aside. My focus is on my teammates, everyone in that building and the fans, and to go out here and have a hell of a year.
Q. You've often spoken about your legacy and how you want to be remembered in the game. You're still young, obviously, but how much did that factor into it? Not just your own performance, but also being there for your teammates and helping your teammates win a championship.
A: 100 percent that factors into it. That's who I am to the core; that's who I am as a competitor. But at the same time, legacy goes with the position, too. I know how great this position has been, I know how helpful this position is to teams throughout the league. When you talk about legacy, it's on guys like myself, it's on guys like (49ers running back) Christian (McCaffrey), it's on guys like J.T. (Colts running back Jonathan Taylor) and (Steelers running back) Najee (Harris) for us to go out there and change the narrative. Everyone wants to bring up data, everyone wants to bring up analytics. You could bring up each way for both sides. But if all of us go out there, God willing, stay healthy and do what we've got to do, I think that's going to put everything to rest.
Q. Is it hard to carry that burden, though? You talked about the Zoom call and not just doing what's best for yourself but doing what's best for an entire position group and being the first person to kind of go through that this year.
A: It's not hard to carry that burden, because I really don't view it like that. In my mindset, it's like, 'Okay, I understand the legacy and you've got to look out for everyone.' For me, it's just going out there and doing what you do, and doing what you love and doing it at a high level. For everyone that's known me since I've been here as a rookie, take care of the little things and everything else is going to take care of itself. I've been saying that since I was a 21-year-old rookie. I've been saying that since I was a 19-year-old at Penn State when I was first able to talk to the media. That's something I believe in. That's something that I believe to the core, and I'm always going to live by that. That's how I'm going to keep rocking.
Q. Why did you not take the last deal? We heard that it reached the 22 million dollars with the franchise tag, two combined, but still, that wasn't enough to make it happen. Why in your mind did it not happen?
A: In my mind, I think it didn't happen because one, just being flat out honest, the tag. That's the leverage that they have. I think if I wasn't able to get tagged, I do think the negotiation process would have went a lot different. I think I would have had a little more – not a little more, a lot more – leverage in my way.
But like I said publicly, and one thing that I've learned from this offseason, there's a lot of sources and a lot of, 'He said, she said.' I said I wasn't trying to reset the running back market. I said I want something that is respectable. I don't want to use the word, 'fair,' because as I'm sitting here in New York with 20, 30 cameras on me, I'm also talking to fans, and there are a lot of people that, where I come from, don't have a lot of money, and we're talking about 10 to 11 million dollars. That's a lot of money. So, I don't want to say something that's fair. I want to say something that's respectable. If I felt like it was something respectable, I would have taken it. I looked at my mom, at my dad, I looked at my team and looked at my family, and I didn't agree with it, so I didn't take it. I feel like if it was, I would have.
Q. There wasn't a deal that reached 22 million dollars guaranteed?
A: I won't say that, and I won't get too much into the actual details of negotiation. I don't think that's fair to myself and my team. I don't think that's fair to (president and chief executive officer) Mr. Mara, to (general manager) Joe (Schoen) and all those guys upstairs who worked really hard on this too to try to get something done. But like I said, I wasn't trying to reset the market. I wanted something that was respectable. But hey, that wasn't able to get done. The next move was to figure out what you want to do. I had an epiphany. I'm here now, I'm happy, glad to be back in the locker room with my teammates. I'm getting a lot of love from them, telling me that they missed me, that OTAs weren't the same without me. I feel we have a hell of a team, and I'm excited for this year.
Q. Do you regret not taking one of the Giants initial offers during the season, pre-tag?
A: No. No.
Q: Why not?
A: Didn't make sense.
Q: You were one of the players who was one of the reasons that this team succeeded this season. A lot of the guys who were a part of that got big contracts. You were given this one-year deal. Is it tough to get over that from a human side, thinking about that compared to how other peoples' business proceeded this offseason?
A: No, because at the end of the day, anybody who knows me, I'm all about my teammates and my brothers getting paid. I'm all about success coming to them. Even though my situation didn't go the way that I would've liked it to go, (offensive tackle) Andrew Thomas signed a big deal, (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) signed a big deal, (defensive lineman) Dex(ter Lawrence II) signed a big deal. That's deserving. Those guys deserve it. I'm so happy for them. You see all throughout the league, there are people that get paid every single year, and I'm happy for those guys too.
But what I will say, for the running back position, not speaking necessarily on my teammates that got signed, there are a lot of running backs out here that are pivotal, key points to teams having success in this league, and helping teams have success in this league. The way that we are getting devalued, I don't think—it's not fair at all. But life's not fair. Hopefully, God willing, I stay healthy, so I can show them and I can tell them.
Q: You talked so much about respect. In the end, did you get respect from the Giants, at least in the way that this was done?
A: Yeah, I would say at the end I got respect from the Giants because I was able to look Joe in his eyes, look Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll) in his eyes. Obviously, we didn't come to an agreement, but we were able to put everything aside. That's just part of the business. It's a business. It sucks when you come to realization of that. As a kid, you've played the majority of this game for free growing up your whole life, and it's something that you've wanted to do since you were a little kid. But like I said in the podcast…I mean, obviously, people only took the one part of what I said in the podcast, but if you listen to the podcast, it's like, this is something I wanted to do as a little kid my whole life and then the business side of it forces you to put you in a position where you're like, 'Damn, I don't know if I want to take it to that level, but I might have to take to that level.' I got to a point where I was ready to take it to that level. But then sitting down with my family, actually breaking it down, looking out, looking at the whole situation, I felt like this would be the best thing not only for me, but for my teammates, for the fans in New York, and for the running backs.
Q: If you end up going year to year, do you think that what you didn't get this year, you could have the ability to recoup in the future or on the free agent market?
A: I can't see in the future, so I can't give you an honest answer. I know I should be able to. I know the type of player that I am. I know the type of player I will show I am this year, God willing, once again. There's a lot of things that're out of your control. So, you can take it day by day, and that's how I'm going to take it.
Q. (Former Giants defensive end) Michael Strahan knows about holdouts. He said, 'I hope this doesn't kill Saquon's spirit.' Has any of this dented you at that level? Has it changed you in any way?
A: No, I wouldn't say that at all. I think that's a big reason why I'm here and there are a lot of names that I can go out and throw out who've reached out to me and gave me a lot of great advice but, 'Come in here and don't break your spirit,' is basically what they were trying to say. Don't let this break your spirit. Still be the same guy you are. Still be the competitor that you are. It sucks. It's the business side of it. It just makes you more aware of it.
I always was aware of it. Like I said, I told the story, my first day in rookie minicamp I was sitting next to one of my teammates and I just had my daughter Jada and he just had, I believe it was his son, and we were just literally talking about that and then the next day he was gone. It's like, 'Oh, this is a business.' It's a crazy business, but for me, I wouldn't say that at all. I know what it is, I understand it but I'm never, ever, ever going to let anybody or anything break me down and tear me apart and change who I am. I know who I am as a person, and I know how my parents raised me. At the same time, there are a lot of kids that are looking at me and looking at the situation – my own kids, and I want to be an example to them. Take it day by day and do the right things and good stuff will come your way.
Q. You said there was a point where you changed your mind in the process. Were you seriously considering sitting out camp and maybe even part of the regular season?
A: Yeah, I was. That's a play that I had but I'll be completely honest, if I sat out this year and say, the New York Football Giants, and I sat out, and we didn't have a good record, do you think that's going to make another team in free agency or the Giants want to have me come back the next year after I sat out a whole year? And be like, 'Oh, we want to give you 15 million dollars a year now?' I don't think that's how it's going to work. After having conversations and really breaking it down – when you sit there and you break it down like that it's like, the only way that I'm going to make it change or do something that's going to benefit myself and my family is doing what I do best. And that's showing up and playing the game I love and do it at a high level.