Saquon Barkley was ‘mad at myself, mad at the world’ about ankle injury; brushes off contract concerns

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Saquon Barkley was just as frustrated as he looked on the sideline Sunday, pounding his fists on his legs, lamenting how almost a full year of rehab could go up in smoke with a sprained left ankle in a freak accident against the Cowboys.

“What would go through your guys’ mind,” Barkley posed Thursday, “if you just rehabbed for 10-11 months to get back on the field and you got hurt rolling your ankle by stepping on someone’s foot?

“You’d be frustrated, you’d be exhausted, you’re human. I’m human. So obviously you have those thoughts and those negative thoughts creep in.”

Barkley is expected to miss at least a couple games due to his sprained ankle. He is definitely out Sunday against the L.A. Rams. He wouldn’t say whether he expects to play the following week against the Carolina Panthers.

“I don’t plan to put any expectations on the day or game I’m gonna come back,” he said.

He said he quickly got rid of the “why me?” thoughts that first entered his mind Sunday when he inadvertently stepped on the foot of Cowboys corner Jourdan Lewis after the play.

But Barkley admitted he was “frustrated … angry at myself” and “disappointed in myself.” He’d worked all the way back from a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee only to go down with a significant lower-body injury for the third straight year.

“I was just starting to get my stride back, starting to feel good,” said Barkley, who had gained 126 yards and scored twice in the previous week’s win in New Orleans. “I can’t be mad at Jourdan Lewis. Actually Jourdan reached out to me. I guess some people were saying that it might have been intentional … He’s not that type of guy, he’s a heck of a player.

“So being mad at myself, that’s the only thing I could be right there: mad at myself, mad at the world, mad at everybody,” the running back added. “You just got hurt. Again. You know you’re gonna be out for how long, you don’t know. So you’re frustrated.”

Barkley, 24, presumably also is frustrated at least in part because his frequent injuries could jeopardize a big payday on a second NFL contract.

This past summer probably would have been the Summer of Saquon contract talks had he not been injured. Now those hard conversations should be coming in the spring entering the fifth and final year of his rookie deal.

Still, the No. 2 overall pick plays a position plagued by injury, and he has been unable to escape that trend. So the reality is it will be difficult for Barkley to get paid the way he would hope.

Barkley said of any effect his durability has on a contract: “I only can control what I can control.”

“And right now the only thing I can control is to find a way to get back on the field by taking care of my body and getting it healthy,” he said. “All those other things I have no control over. So I can’t focus on that.

“To be completely honest that’s the last thing that’s crossing my mind: financial security or contract talks or any other talks,” he added. “My only focus is going home, rehabbing … and getting back on the field and playing the sport that I love.”

Barkley also said he feels bad letting his teammates down. There is always the chance, because he feels that way, that he would return from his ankle sprain too quickly, as he did in 2019. He said the fact he got hurt following his major knee injury won’t change his approach.

“I would never put myself on a football field if I didn’t think I could contribute or protect myself,” he assured.. “No matter if this is an injury before a major injury or after a major injury, that’s gonna be my mindset.

If there is any “blessing in disguise,” Barkley said perhaps this time off can give his rehabilitated knee more time to rest. Still, he said his knee doesn’t need that.

“Before the Dallas game, you just know you’re gonna have a good game,” he said. “You feel right. I felt pretty good before the Dallas game.”

At first, Barkley wouldn’t even get on the cart on the Giants’ sideline at AT&T Stadium.

“Yeah. I didn’t want to get on the cart because the last time I was on the cart I was out for the season,” he said. “I didn’t want to have that mentality.”

Unfortunately, Barkley couldn’t tough it out, couldn’t push through and help his team.

At the same time, the prevailing sense in the organization was this could have been far worse. This could have been a season-ending break, and it’s not.

“Thank God it wasn’t worse than what it could’ve been,” he said.

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