Offensive lineman Nate Solder was asked for his impressions on rookie running back Saquon Barkley early Thursday afternoon. He offered very little insight.
"I mean, he hasn’t even practiced yet,” Solder said.
That can no longer be used as an excuse. Barkley did participate in his first NFL training camp practice later in the afternoon, giving the Giants and the thousand or so fans watching from the bleachers around the fields their first real glimpse of what the second overall draft pick will be able to provide them this season.
It was impressive. Barkley took his first handoff in team drills and blurred through the offensive line. The crowd, many of them already wearing their new No. 26 jerseys, erupted. Nevermind that the defense wasn’t allowed to tackle anyone, this was Barkley making his opening statement and he made it loudly.
So much has been said and thought about Barkley that it can be hard to remember this is all new for him. One person, at least, wants to pull the reins on the Saquon Express.
“He obviously has unlimited physical skills and he’s a real fine young man as well,” Giants co-owner John Mara said on Thursday. “I think he adds a different dimension that maybe we haven’t had in our offense in quite some time. But I do get a little nervous about all the hype since he hasn’t played in a game yet, but I do think he’s capable of living up to it.”
Few others around the Giants are shying away from that hype. Linebacker Alec Ogletree said on Wednesday that he’s looking forward to covering Barkley in practice and very excited he won’t have to do it in games.
“He’s going to bring a lot of havoc for sure,” Ogletree said. “Hopefully he doesn’t beat me too bad… Hopefully he goes out there and destroys every linebacker he plays against this year.”
Head coach Pat Shurmur was asked what he wants to see from Barkley in the coming days.
“He just needs to go through training camp and work through the good days and the bad, clean up the mistakes as they show up, and just keep competing,” he said. “That’s really what we want to see from him.”
Hurdling defenders, cutting on would-be tacklers and catching passes out of the backfield, that’s what the fans want to see. And they will.
Mara said he had a hard time recalling the kind of hysteria around a rookie before he even plays that Barkley has brought.
“Possibly '81 with Lawrence Taylor when he came to camp,” Mara said, “but maybe not quite this much. I mean, his jersey is already the top-selling jersey and he’s gotten a lot of attention. I think he's able to handle that, but still, I’ve used this line a million times before, let’s not get him ready for Canton yet. Let’s let him play some games first.”
For that, we’ll all have to wait until September.