EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Four games into his NFL career, New York Giants halfback Saquon Barkley has a good understanding of life in the NFL.
The No. 2 overall draft picks knows there are no easy games. There are going to be ups and downs every game, and mistakes usually are going to determine the outcome. All a player can do is to work hard and not get too down when things are going badly.
The other thing that’s obvious is losing can’t become a habit.
With a 1-3 record heading into Sunday’s game at Carolina against the Panthers (2-1), the Giants need to start winning if they want to have any hope of making the playoffs in coach Pat Shurmur’s first season.
“The season is obviously not over,” Barkley said Wednesday. “It’s a long season, but you can’t say: ‘It’s a long season’ forever because you get to a point where you get redundant and you keep saying that, then there’s no chance for you to make the playoffs. Everything that we still want, all of our goals are still in reach. Coach said something perfect today, he said the only thing that we’re not capable of doing this season is an undefeated season.”
One thing to expect this weekend is Barkley getting his hands on the ball a lot. He had 10 carries for 44 yards and caught six passes for 56 in the 33-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints last weekend.
Shurmur was quick to admit Barkley didn’t get enough touches. Barkley will take the ball any time.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, however many touches they need me to do, however many carries they need me to do, however many plays they need me to do, I’m willing to do it,” he said. “It wouldn’t bother me, my mind wouldn’t be different, my body wouldn’t be different. At the end of the day you still have to come in here and take care of your body; I’m still going to do that no matter if I touch the ball twice or touch the ball 25 times.”
Barkley has had at least 100 total yards from scrimmage in each of his first four games. If he extends the streak to five games Sunday, he will join Adrian Peterson and Kareem Hunt as the only rookies to do that in the NFL’s 99-season history. His 453 total yards are No. 8 in the league.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he sent Giants general manager Dave Gettleman — his old boss in Carolina — a congratulatory note after New York drafted Barkley.
“The young man has tremendous power, speed and talent,” Rivera said.
Barkley is 11th in the league in rushing with 260 yards on 56 carries, a 4.6 yard average. He is tied for 13th in receiving with 27 catches for 193 yards. He also believes he can do more.
“I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of breaking tackles so far, I’ve got to find a way to break more tackles,” the former Penn State star said. “I was brought here to be an efficient player, and when the opportunity comes, create big plays, and I’ve got to do a better job there. A lot of the reason we haven’t been successful is we haven’t been able to run the ball, we haven’t run the ball as well as we are capable of.”
The Giants also haven’t been winning. They have been within striking distance in the fourth quarter of every game, but only won at Houston.
“I don’t think really any team so far that we’ve played, obviously at the end of the game they had the win and they had more points than we had, but there’s a lot of things we did ourselves to put us in that situation,” Barkley said, referring to penalties, turnovers and mistakes. “If we can fix ourselves and just focus on ourselves, I think the rest of the season will take care of itself.”
NOTES: WR Sterling Shepard did not practice because he was having a cyst on his back removed. Shurmur hopes to have him back Thursday. … Shurmur said LB Olivier Vernon (high ankle sprain) is getting closer to playing for the first time this season. … Chad Wheeler, who replaced Ereck Flowers at right tackle, is a laid-back guy until game day. “You got to be calm around family and friends and then you got to turn into a savage when you enter the building,” he explained.
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