Yes, indeed, Saquon Barkley says, being this close to a Super Bowl makes him hungrier to get to one as a participant.
Barkley, the Giants’ star running back, completed a magnificent rookie season but his team did not get remotely close to the playoffs. He arrived in town to promote a variety of endeavors. He looked as if he enjoyed the experience. He prefers to return one day soon, along with uniform and shoulder pads, and actually play in the game instead of hanging out on the outskirts during the week leading into the game.
“Definitely,’’ Barkley said. “It gets you motivated. Just watching the playoffs. You see teams that you played against or you see teams that are having a lot of success just watching the games. You can envision yourself being there. That is the goal. You work hard in the offseason and you push yourself and your teammates to get to this point. Obviously it is a long road and it is not going to be easy. We still have a lot of figuring out to do but that is what it takes. Everyone wants to be in this moment and at this game.’’
Wanting and wishing do not make it happen. The Giants, despite Barkley rushing for 1,307 yards, catching 91 passes for 721 yards and accounting for a total of 15 touchdowns, finished 5-11 and needed to go 4-4 in the second half of the season to get there after a 1-7 start.
There are players who refrain from attending any Super Bowl festivities in the host city until they earn their way there on the field. Barkley said “I think the people that say they aren’t going to be there unless they are actually in there is a little overdramatic,’’ adding “For me to not come out here would just be idiotic, in my opinion.’’
He is up for the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award – Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is his only real competition – and will learn Saturday night if he wins. Earlier in the week, Barkley was named Pepsi Rookie of the Year, an award based on fan voting.
“It will be a new experience for me, it will be my first award show,’’ he said. “I get to do all the dressing up and walk the red carpet and whatnot. Have my mom and family there. It will just be cool being surrounded by a lot of talented players and familiar faces that I have seen, whether it be in combine training, hanging out or working out. It will be fun to be with them and at the end of the day represent myself and the New York Giants, whether I win the award or not.
“Obviously, with the competitive nature you want to be in this game. Obviously you love all of this stuff but I would much rather be preparing for a Super Bowl. That is the goal. Just to continue to work and try and find a way to do that next year.’’
Next up for Barkley: Trying to figure out how his individual achievements, all his yards and catches and touchdowns, translate to helping the Giants win more games.
“Now I am just thinking how can I improve on that and build on that,’’ he said. “How can I help translate that into more wins for the team? All of those things were great, but now I just have to elevate my game to another level.
“I want to grow more as a leader. When you are there, it is not just about elevating yourself. Obviously you want to elevate your game and take it to another level but you want to elevate the people around you and challenge them at the same time.’’