On the first day of the Giants' three-day mandatory minicamp, Giants DT Damon "Snacks" Harrison let rookie RB Saquon Barkley know that once the pads are on, he isn't holding back.
"I'm excited to get out there in training camp, so I can hit his ass," Harrison said. "See what he's made of. I told him, it's not Penn State. He's not going up against (DT) Josh Banks at Wake Forest."
It was all meant in good faith, but Barkley understands fully what Harrison is on the Giants to do: stop the run. That is why when asked to rebuttle Harrison's comments, the rookie took the high road instead.
"My response to that is I am happy we are on the same team," Barkley said after Day 2 of minicamp. "He only get to hit me maybe once or twice a year rather than a full game. Snacks is arguably one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL. I definitely have a lot of respect for him and how he carries himself as a vet. You could just watch him on the field. I am going to say I am going to run away from that. I am happy he is on my team and my side."
Barkley's main concern at minicamp, though, isn't running away from Snacks. He has been focusing on learning the playbook, and making all the adjustments necessary to perform well in his rookie season.
The transition hasn't been easy, but Barkley admits he is starting to understand the playbook more as well as what the Giants need from him.
"Understanding the playbook," Barkley said when asked what he has improved on the most. "Continuing to hop on that and to get better at that. There is always room for improvement on anything. Playbook is definitely something that I feel like I am getting more comfortable with. I am seeing the field a lot differently. Understanding where I have to be in my pass concepts. Obviously, not having pads on, but understanding your landmark as a running back position. Watching film on other backs and try to take stuff from their game and add it to mine."
While still picking up more concepts of the Giants' offense and learning QB Eli Manning's audibles and adjustments, Barkley has only perfection on his mind. Getting drafted No. 2 overall speaks to what the Giants expect from him this season, and that is to revitalize a run game that has been nonexistent the past few years.
Barkley is also a passing threat, something he prides himself on. That is why dropping passes, even though it is just practice, ticks him off.
"I dropped one," Barkley said when asked if he had any drops in camp so far. "That is something that I pride myself on. You come out here every single day and you want to be perfect. When I mean perfect, I don't mean a perfect player, but you want to go through practice without drops. Sometimes it reassures you that you have to get back on the jugs and catching after practice. There is a ball that I caught 100 times and I dropped it because I was trying to turn up field instead of securing the catch. I kind of worked on that after and it has not happened since. That is just a part of the game."
Throughout the grind of learning an entirely new offense, Barkley admitted the vetearns on the team have been very "welcoming." And when it comes to putting his helmet on everyday, Barkley has learned two things about being a New York Football Giant.
"The first is the tradition here," he said. "The history, legacy and all the great players. Being able to go to the softball game and seeing all the running backs. The Tiki's (Barber) and the (Rodney) Hampton's of the world and to be able to meet them. You heard about the Giants growing up. I was a Jets fan growing up but you heard that and I knew of the Giants but I was across the river. You knew and learned how special this place is when you walk in the building.
"The second one was New York and being recognized more. At State College, it is like it's own little city. It is a small city. Then, in New York, you walk around and people know you. It is not like, 'wow they know me, I have fame' but it is like people notice you and what you are doing. I have not played a down of football yet so I am just handling myself. That is credit to my mother and father and my family and how they raised me. Hopefully I could continue to do the right things."