From golfing to squatting 600 pounds against Jalen Hurts: Saquon Barkley’s new Eagles era

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PHILADELPHIA — After six seasons wearing a New York Giants uniform, it took time for running back Saquon Barkley to get used to putting on Eagles green.

But that weirdness has “definitely faded” over the past couple of months, Barkley said, as he’s built relationships in the building and began settling into his new environment.

“It’s like a fresh start. I feel like a rookie again,” Barkley said following the Eagles’ OTA practice Wednesday. “Getting to know everybody in here, learning the culture, buying into the culture and feeling like it’s home.”

He’s found a number of ways to break the ice, from competing with franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts in the weight room to going out to eat with his teammates to playing golf — lots of golf.

Barkley explained that his family is still in the process of moving from northern New Jersey and is not yet in the area. That’s given him a lot of free time once his day at the Eagles’ practice facility is done, and he’s spent a good chunk of it on the links.

“I’ve been golfing with a lot of guys, golfing with O-linemen,” Barkley said, “but my golf buddies right now I would say are [quarterbacks] Will Grier and Kenny Pickett. Kenny is just picking it up. Shoutout to Kenny. He broke 100 for the first time and he just started like two, three months ago so that’s a big accomplishment. But those two … we’re kind of golf fiends right now.”

Barkley, though, has been making his biggest impression at work.

“He’s an incredible running back. I watched him over the years. I’m glad he’s on my team,” receiver A.J. Brown said. “What I saw [during offseason training], him pushing teammates in the weight room, that gets me excited because honestly … if I can get a guy like that who’s going to come to work every single day and working hard, that’s all that matters.”

Squatting is a talent shared by Barkley and Hurts: Both players are able to lift 600-plus pounds. Barkley had fun on the Kelce’s “New Heights” podcast not long after signing his three-year, $37.75 million free agency deal with Philly, saying he can move more weight than Hurts and “it’s not even close.”

While it wasn’t exactly a squat-off, Eagles social media posted a video of Barkley and Hurts going rep for rep as teammates looked on. It’s one of the ways QB1 and RB1 have sped up the bonding process.

“Even in the short time of us having OTAs, you hear about the type of person he is, the type of leader he is in the room, the energy he brings to a room and that’s something that I appreciate already — just us competing in sprints or competing on the squat rack and things like that where we’re challenging one another — those are the things that set the thermostat for what the team is supposed to follow,” Hurts said.

There’s no denying the level of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Barkley said what struck him the most was going into the huddle for the first time during 7-on-7 drills at OTAs and seeing Brown, wide receiver DeVonta Smith, tight end Dallas Goedert and Hurts surrounding him.

“That’s not a bad group to be out there with,” he said with a smile, “and that’s not even including the offensive linemen.”

The supporting cast was not as stout in New York. Barkley largely served as the focal point for the offense and amassed over 7,300 total yards and 47 touchdowns over six seasons. He joins a high-powered group in Philadelphia that is looking to get back on track after a late-season collapse in 2023.

“Saquon is a premier running back, first and foremost. We’re really excited about his ability to run the football,” said new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.

“We know the aspects that make him great. It’s his ability to be a great pass protector, to be a receiver out of the backfield. He does a phenomenal job with those things. Obviously, we’ve got to try to utilize him as much as we can while understanding it’s a long season for running backs. We’ve got great guys behind him in [running back] Kenny [Gainwell] and [running back] Will [Shipley] and all the guys back there that we’re excited about. We’re fortunate to have Saquon.”

Barkley said he will not shy away from assuming a leadership role on the team even though he’s new. As Brown noted, “a guy with talent like that, his personality … that’s a guy you want to follow.”

His level of experience should also lend to such a role. Barkley believes this is the first time in his career where he’s the elder statesman in the running back room, making him the old guy and the new guy all at once.

“That’s definitely funny to me. There’s a beauty in it too,” he said. “You see how fast your time goes in [the league]. And when you’re having fun with it, the time flies by.”

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