DC Wink Martindale, OC Mike Kafka, STC Thomas McGaughey, RB Saquon Barkley, DL Dexter Lawrence, DL Leonard Williams, OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux

Running Back Saquon Barkley

Q: I know you’ve seen it all basically on a football field but first playoff game – will you be nervous?

A: Nope. I’m excited. Obviously, I know it’s a playoff game. More attention, more eyes, but to me, I won’t be nervous. Will I be hype? Yeah, I get hyped for every single game. Nerves, I wouldn’t say that. For me, it’s just another football game. I talked to (Michael) Strahan when he was here not too long ago and I asked him, ‘What’s really the difference between playoff football?” He said obviously the intensity rises and all that, but the best advice he gave me was don’t make the game bigger than it needs to be. I’m keeping that advice and sticking with that advice.

Q: Is this a confirmation of what this team has accomplished in terms of hard work and is it a way of saying, hey we got to where we wanted to go?

A: That’s a good question. I guess I could say yes and no. The reason why yes is because that’s your goal – you want to make it to the playoff. The only way you do that is through having the right mindset, hard work and win enough games to get there. The goal is not just to make it to the playoffs. You want to give yourself the opportunity to compete for the whole thing. We gave ourselves that chance. Now, we got to take it game by game. We got a big one, the biggest one because it’s the next game on our schedule, and if you don’t take care of this; that’s the playoffs.

Q: Would you at least say this is validation that you guys have quieted the noise? I remember you starting off the season saying you wanted to go out to kill and there was a lot of doubters. Do you think regardless of what happens Sunday, the fact that you guys are in the playoffs proved a ton of people wrong?

A: Yeah, to be honest we really can’t control what anybody else says or think. The only thing we can control is how we go out there, how we perform, and the only thing we need to focus on is the men and women in that building no matter what happens throughout this playoff. That’s the beauty, that’s the world we live in. You guys can say what you want to say but we can’t take it to heart. We just got to focus on us, and I think we’ve been doing that throughout the whole season and that’s why we’re in the position we are in.

Q: Outside of (Michael) Strahan, are there any other former Giants that you have spoken to with playoff experience? Specifically, maybe running backs?

A: (Adrian Peterson) AP. I know he’s not a Giant, AP texted me. That’s someone who, when I was going through my knee process, that I reached out to. He had great advice and someone I can lean on. It’s pretty cool when you look at your phone and there’s a text from AP saying, “Congrats and happy for you and go kill it in the playoffs.”

Q: Very timely considering the opponent, as well for AP.

A: I didn’t even think that, now that’s lit. When I literally said that – as I was saying that – I was literally like, the timing of it is funny. I’m a big fan of the game and a fan of AP. To get a text like that from one of the greats, it means a lot.

Q: You carried the ball 14 times in that first game against the Vikings, you also caught two passes. Do you want the ball 20 times, 25 times, 30 times?

A: I want the ball as many times as needed to win this game. Whatever I got to do. That’s been my motto throughout the entire season and I’m sticking with it. Obviously, I carried the ball a little bit more in earlier in the year, second half of the season not so much, but the job was to get into the playoffs, and we found a way to do that. Whatever we got to do to get the win, I’m willing to do for my team. If it’s 40, 50 then it’s 40, 50. If it’s zero, five then it’s zero, five.

Q: They drafted you really for these moments and No. 2 overall. Do you feel the weight of that responsibility as you enter your first playoff game? Is that something you feel?

A: No. I don’t feel that at all. As a player, as a competitor you want these moments – this is the stuff you dream about as a kid. Playing in the playoffs. Going to a hostile environment; it’s loud, making big plays and silencing the crowd. That’s stuff that you think about as a kid. Now, that opportunity is here. Whether I was drafted No. 2 or whether I was not drafted at all – the type of person I am, I want to go out there and make plays for my team and help them win the football game in whatever way that it’s possible whether that’s with the ball in my hand or without the ball in my hand. I’m going to try to do that.

Q: Did you enjoy the rest last weekend, and could it be beneficial this week?

A: Yeah, I guess. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. You want to be out there and compete and play, especially against Philly. Obviously, I know the reason why we did it. I understand the reason why we did it and for me that whole week was treat the week like I was playing and knowing that we are in the playoffs, come in with the same mindset, come in early, get my body worked on, prepare myself for this game. I took a day off, I guess you could say, not playing in the game but still kept the same mindset and the work ethic to get ready for this game.

Q: One of your biggest games was off the bye week, you guys came back and played Houston. Did you notice that was a benefit at the time and can you apply that here?

A: I would say when you get that week off, you’re fresh in the beginning – the first day you come out in practice. You’re like oh man, you can tell you’ve been off for a week. Once you practice, especially the way I try to practice, putting myself in condition and get myself ready for a game – at the same time, Sunday is Sunday whether you have a week off or not.

Q: How’s your body been feeling?

A: I feel good. I haven’t played a full season in a long time. I played a full season and got some extra games left. I’m excited.

Q: What do you make of the receiver core that weren’t household names, obviously, coming into the season but they’ve clearly done enough for you guys to be in the post season?

A: Hat’s off to them. They come in every single day with the right mindset and the right work ethic and made play after play this year. Whether it’s (wide receiver) Isaiah (Hodgins), whether it’s (wide receiver Darius) Slayton, whether it’s (wide receiver) Richie (James), (tight end Daniel) Bellinger – all those guys. They come in every single day with the right mindset and made plays. That’s what you need from the guys, and they will continue to do that throughout the playoffs and especially the next game.

Q: What does it mean being able to play in the postseason? What does that mean to you?

A: It feels good. I guess I kind of luck on my side this season, to be honest. All the rest of the injuries I had in years prior is stuff that I couldn’t control. I stepped on someone’s foot. Making a routine play, I tore my knee. That’s when I kind of came to the realization after those two years is that no matter how hard you work, no matter how much time you put into your body, there’s just some things you can’t control. Thank the man upstairs for keeping me healthy and just ready for the next game.

Q: How much did it come at the right time for you?

A: Yeah, I guess. His timing is always perfect. You can’t knock that; you can’t go against that. I’m a big believer in that.

Q: Even as a fan of the game, is there a playoff memory that you remember that stood out to you from a running back or just someone growing up and now you’re getting the opportunity to actually play in the playoffs?

A: I was a Jets fan growing up. The biggest ones for me were the two AFC Championships back-to-back. What (quarterback) Mark Sanchez did as a rookie and then came back. I was looking up, I’m big into numbers and the history of the game, so I went back and looked up the most rushing yards in a playoff game, career rushing yards in a playoff game. (Running back) Emmitt Smith has like 1,500 (1,586) yards and 19 touchdowns, which is insane. I guess they’ve been to the playoffs a lot but still, that number is insane. (Running back) Eric Dickerson, I think it was against Dallas, put up like 240, 230 (248) in a single game. (Miami running back) Raheem Mostert, not too long ago for San Francisco (2019 NFC Championship game vs. Green Bay), put up like 200 yards (220). I like to back and look at all the stuff.

Q: What was the purpose of that? Just fuel to the fire? That you would want to be on the list?

A: yeah, I guess you could say. I would love that. Really would love that.

Q: Is there one game in there that surprised you?

A: (Running back) Franco Harris. Not saying surprised me but he’s No. 2 career (1,556). He’s just behind Emmitt. They did a football life on Franco, and I didn’t realize how many championships he’s had, how many games he played in. (Fullback) John Riggins had the most in a playoff run, he had like 610 (625 yards from scrimmage) on 130-something carries (136) and a TD (Terrell Davis) in Denver. Went to the Super Bowl in back-to-back years or something like that. He had two runs that are pretty good. I wouldn’t say he surprised me but Franco because Franco is way before my time. I wasn’t expecting him to be No. 2. I don’t know who really, I was expecting to be No. 2, I wasn’t expecting Emmitt to be like 1,500. I was expecting him to be like 900, 1,000. But 1,500 yards rushing on the ground and 19 touchdowns is insane. That’s like, if you do that in the regular season – that’s one of the best seasons or definitely an all-pro season depending on when you did it and the time you did it. My fault, I’m just rambling right now.

Q: I guess (running back Eric) Dickerson’s single game high, what was that?

A: That’s crazy too. It’s good. I’m a big believer in setting goals and not saying, “I’m going to go out here and rush for this number of yards in Minnesota.” They say, ‘Study the greats and become great.’ I forgot who said that I think it was Michael Jackson. Just went back to the past and tried to look up, try to give me some extra motivation to do some stuff.

Q: Would you like a kid someday to be standing where you are talking about you in a playoff game?

A: That would be really cool. That would be really cool. That’s why you do it. You want to create a legacy; you want to have an impact. I’m sitting here just reading off names, going back and I’m about – like a kid at a candy store, “Oh my god. Dang, you see this? I didn’t even know that 1,500 yards.” Hopefully one day I can do that. The way you do that is by focusing on the task at hand.

Q: Didn’t you do that even in high school? You asked questions about who the great Pennsylvania high school football players were. Did you carry that through most of your football life where you wanted to know what the benchmarks were historically, and you wanted to try to match that?

A: Yeah. High school knew all the people who had stats at my high school. When I went to Penn State, I kind of said something very arrogant to the running backs but I knew who all the records were at Penn State. I know pretty much all the records here. Those are the things – that’s why you do it. I was watching something on Kobe the other night. He was saying, “The goal is to be the best.” That’s my goal. I’ve said that multiple times. I’ve been vocal about that multiple times. That’s something that I want to accomplish. That’s how I’m going to live my life and that’s how I’m going to work every single day. Try and get to the top of that mountain and if I don’t reach the top of the mountain, however far I get, at least I know I had the right mindset and I put the right work in that when it’s all said and done, it’s wrapped up there will be a smile on my face.

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