He said it, with conviction, so many times, but not lately.
Does Saquon Barkley feel the way he did before a contract battle with the only NFL team he has ever played for left him disappointed with the negotiating process and hurt that his team was not willing to ante up for him commensurate with how he views himself, as one of the world’s best running backs?
Does Saquon Barkley still want to be a Giant for life?
“Oh, yeah. I don’t think that really changed,’’ Barkley told The Post on Sunday at a promotional event at Chelsea Piers. “They know how I feel. I’m not really too focused on that right now.’’
What he is focused on right now, Barkley insisted, is the coming days, the final summer tune-ups before the heavy-duty, game-centered preparation for the season opener against the Cowboys.
These next few practices will at times have the starting offense working against the starting defense and Barkley particularly enjoys that dynamic.
“It’s the last time we really get to get good on good,’’ he said.
If it sounds as if the 26-year-old Barkley has put aside the animosity that grew inside of him for months as he went without a contract you are hearing correctly.
While he acknowledged “I’m human’’ and admitted “some of that stuff bothered me during the process,’’ his acceptance of a one-year deal worth up to $11 million that allowed him to report to his sixth NFL training camp on time came with no emotional strings attached.
“Once I made the decision I was going to show up and I was going to be there and do my job, you got to put all that aside,’’ Barkley said. “Got to be mature about it.’’
In addition to speaking with his parents and other family members, Barkley revealed that he sought out and received counsel from his former coach at Penn State, James Franklin, before making peace with his financial reality.
“We made a decision; you got to put it to the side; you got a job to take care of,’’ Barkley said. “I’m here, and I’m ready for the season.’’
Barkley had not spoken publicly since July 27, on the second day of training camp, when he said he had an “epiphany’’ and “kind of just followed my heart’’ in explaining why, after keeping away from the team all spring, he agreed to a one-year deal that will pay him far less in guaranteed money ($10.1 million — essentially the franchise tag) than he would have received if he accepted the Giants’ multiyear offers.
As a captain and star player, Barkley is usually a team spokesman, but this summer he has purposely steered clear of the podium, brushing aside all media requests.
“I just felt the questions would continue to be about the tag or the money situation,’’ he said. “It’s in the past. I can’t control that. I know I came out and tweeted ‘It is what it is’ and that’s what I truly felt at the moment.’’
Barkley was making an appearance at the SIX STAR x Kellogg’s 100% Whey Protein Plus launch event, which touted “the convergence of iconic flavors — Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops — with SIX STAR 100% Whey Protein Plus.’’ Barkley even posed for a picture with Tony the Tiger.
Judging from his work in camp, Barkley seems primed for a big season. He always is in supreme shape, but his body is now a bit more sculpted. “Probably a little more cut, you could say,’’ he said.
He did not play a single snap in any one of the three preseason games, which was fine with him.
He said getting “game-rep hits’’ from Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams prepared his body for the real thing.
“I feel like I had a great camp,” Barkley said. “I feel we had a great preseason as a team.”
“I came in, what I wanted to do, the weight I wanted to be at, hit some of the speeds I wanted to hit. Being involved a little bit more in the pass game, worked on that in the offseason a lot, just getting back into being in the building and playing football and having fun and doing what I love. I would say all of that together is the reason why I’d say I had a great camp.’’
Barkley said having no job security beyond this season will not deter him from chasing his running back idols — Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Marshall Faulk — to harness the “unbelievable talent’’ he is blessed with to become “one of the best players to ever do it.’’
He says he has pushed the business side away and is all about the game.
“No matter what, if I have this contract, if I had a long-term deal or if I have a one-year deal again, I put all that aside,’’ Barkley said. “I’m just focusing on trying to be great, trying to be a leader, be a captain for this team and do everything I can to help this team win.’’
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