EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants relied heavily on running back Saquon Barkley early and often Sunday in a 24-16 victory over the Houston Texans, just days after they tabled contract talks. All he did was produce.
Barkley had a career-high 35 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown in an effort that only further emphasized his reemergence as a top back after three injury-riddled seasons. It was the second time this season (and in his career) he topped 30 carries.
“My body felt it, I guess,” Barkley said after undergoing standard postgame treatment. “You don’t really know [how many carries]. I tried my best. Obviously, they bring it up and they show it. I try my best not to focus on that and block it out and stay locked in the game one play at a time. Like I said, it is what it is. We were able to get the dub, get the win, and it’s my job to be a pro and take care of my body.”
Barkley now leads the NFL with 931 rushing yards and 1,128 yards from scrimmage. He’s playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract and is set to be a free agent at the end of this season.
Barkley, 25, and the Giants did not come close to hammering out a deal during the bye week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday night. Those talks have now been shelved until after the season.
The Giants’ captain is expected to set his sights on being among the NFL’s highest-paid running backs, if not the highest. The upper echelon of running backs is currently making $12.5 million to $16 million this season.
“We got into a little bit of conversation,” Barkley said. “At the end of the day, I put that in the past. That was the bye week. Obviously, we weren’t able to come to an agreement during the bye week, and my mindset is just focus on the rest of the season. Next week going against Detroit and knowing when that opportunity comes up again, focus on it then.”
The star running back took away from the brief negotiations that he now knows how the Giants feel about him. They spoke highly of him even if a deal couldn’t get done.
Barkley would like for something to ultimately get done.
“I think I’ve kind of been vocal before contracts were even brought up, about how I feel about this place, what I want my legacy to be in this place and I want to be Giant for life,” he said. “Like I said, I’ve been vocal about that, so if the conversation gets brought up again, we’ll go from there.”
General manager Joe Schoen said during the bye there would be an “ongoing evaluation” with quarterback Daniel Jones and Barkley. Jones is also a free agent.
The most pertinent question about both entering the season was durability. Barkley had been injured most of the previous three years, while Jones has never played a full season.
Barkley, however, doesn’t think there is anything left to prove.
“No, I feel like I answered all the questions/concerns, to be completely honest,” he told ESPN late last week. “But that is not really my focus. My focus is to block out the noise, continue to come out here and play for those guys in the locker room.”
That is what happened on Sunday. After starting the afternoon slowly with 29 yards on 12 carries, Barkley ripped off a 29-yard run. He had 133 yards on his final 23 carries (5.8 yards per carry).
Leaning on their most explosive offensive player was always the Giants’ plan against the league’s worst run defense. That was just fine with Barkley.
“He loves the opportunity to take over a game and play as well as he did. He played very well [Sunday],” Jones said.
The Giants have not been shy about Barkley’s workload this season. He has played 84% of their offensive snaps.
They appear to have no reservations about that workload or the 35 carries.
“I mean, you tell me. He looked good to me. No, I’m just messing with you,” coach Brian Daboll said. “What did he have? Thirty-five for 152? The thing, I think, with him is [he] takes a lot of shots. So, we try to do the best job we can — the medical staff, the sports science — of practicing him the right way. And this week, he was fresh. So, he had a really good week of practice. We were handing him the ball at the 20 and he was running the ball to the end zone, 80 yards, and then coming back and doing it again. So, I thought that the stuff he did during the week carried over.
“Obviously, he’s having a good season for us. He had a good day.”
Eventually, it’s going to get him paid.
Giants feed Saquon Barkley (35 carries) in victory after talks tabled
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