Saquon Barkley wrote a note to himself on Wednesday.
He was in a meeting, jotting down some of the things he was seeing and discussing with teammates, when a thought crossed his mind. He scribbled it quickly at the top of the page.
The great ones figure it out.
"I want to be great,” Barkley said of that message, “and I’m going to figure it out.”
This season, the solution has been a bit elusive. A cornucopia of elements have converged to derail his second NFL campaign. He suffered a high ankle sprain. His offensive line isn’t blocking as well as it could be. His rookie quarterback doesn’t always put the offense in the right play at the line of scrimmage. All of it has added up to a disappointing year with just 461 rushing yards, three touchdowns, and, most importantly, no games in which he has been on the field in the second half and won.
But the common denominator of all of those hurdled, Barkley, said, is one person.
“This season is not going the way I would like it,” the running back said. “No, I’m not going to point blame on anyone else, you have to point the fingers at yourself first. You’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better. I’m going to keep working.”
The reality is that the other pieces do play a factor in Barkley’s production, whether he dismisses them or not. He did suffer the ankle injury, although he has apparently grown tired of hearing questions about that. Asked about one of his plays from last Sunday’s loss to the Bears, he gave perhaps the most angry answer he has ever publicly delivered as a Giant.
“Did I look hurt? No,” he said. “So, let’s stop making excuses that I’m hurt. I’m not hurt. Let’s stop making excuses that I’m not 100 percent. No one is 100 percent.”
He did allow that having Daniel Jones at quarterback can affect the running game.
“No one expects him to be at the level of recognizing defenses and putting us in positions how Eli [Manning] would,” Barkley said. “Eli has been doing it for 15 years, it’s impossible for them to be on the same level.”
But he also absolved Jones of that detriment at the same time.
“He’s still learning, but I think he has done a really good job so far,” Barkley said.
The offensive line? It’ll take more than a few lousy games to get Barkley to turn on them no matter how badly they perform.
Which leaves Barkley putting it all on himself, urging himself on, and writing notes to himself.
“A lot of things went well for him last year and he’s grinding through this season and I think there is a lot to be learned from that,” Pat Shurmur said. “We all grind through it at times. It’s about perseverance and trying to get it right until you can push it over the top consistently. That’s where we’re at right now.”
And it’s where Barkley is.
“You have to hold yourself to a standard and hold yourself to higher expectations,” he said. “That’s how I am and that’s how I’m going to continue to be. Even though you face adversity or the season isn’t going how you want, as a team you have to keep working.”
And as a great player, that’s even more important.