The first thing that Saquon Barkley notices when the Giants play at home is the crowded tailgating parties in the parking lots.
“You feel the energy driving to the game and seeing how early everyone is out there,” Barkley told The Post. “These are the things I visualized when I got drafted. All the great things I heard about this place are starting to come back. It’s on us, as players and coaches, to continue to [create] that energy within this stadium. It was definitely rocking the last two home games.”
Barkley was back at the 50-yard line of a quieter MetLife Stadium on Tuesday night to welcome contest winners for the “Fansgiving at the 50” turkey dinner hosted by Courtyard by Marriott. Aside from family, there is no doubt what the NFL’s leading rusher is thankful for this season after two injury-plagued years.
“Health,” Barkley said without hesitation, after the pounding associated with a career-high 35 carries in a win against the Texans. “And amazing teammates and coaches who brought that positivity back to the facility.”
Barkley’s health goes hand in hand with accounting for 36.5 percent of the Giants’ yards from scrimmage while building an Offensive Player of the Year case and sparking a 7-2 start.
“You always feel [sore] on Monday and Tuesday, but that’s the job,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to help my team win games. I say, ‘Go be a pro,’ and I have a lot of people inside and outside the facility that help me take care of my body.”
The previously undefeated Eagles’ loss Monday moved the Giants to within one game of the NFC East lead and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs entering a visit Sunday from the Lions. A short turnaround to a Thanksgiving game at the Cowboys will interrupt the Barkley family traditions of a big meal and playing games.
The Giants had not been better than 3-6 at this point in any of Barkley’s first four seasons, which drained the life from home games.
“When you heard the boos, that’s just because the fans want to win,” Barkley said. “Now, we are 7-2 and in the best position we’ve been in, and November and December is when football really starts. It’s the first time in my career that every game has a lot more meaning to it.”
It has posed a different — but welcome — challenge.
“The sense of urgency, being 7-2 or 2-7, is a different feeling in the locker room because you have to keep trying to find ways to improve each day,” Barkley said. “It’s harder to maintain success than anything else you do.”
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