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Saquon Barkley gets Nike clothing line, but are storm clouds gathering?

Published November 14. 2019 12:16PM

Nike last week announced it has rolled out a new apparel collection for Whitehall High School phenom Saquon Barkley, one that features his official logo.

In just his second year with the struggling New York Giants, Barkley has had his own struggles since returning from an ankle injury which sidelined him for three games.

Barkley had just one net yard on 13 carries Sunday against the New York Jets, which sent the Giants to their sixth loss in a row, 34-27. My conclusion, and I am not alone, is that Barkley is still hurt. He left the field for X-rays on Sunday but returned later in the game.

Giants’ coach Pat Shurmur wasn’t quite as blunt but said of Barclay’s performance, “It’s very unusual of anyone of any caliber in any game.”

Running wasn’t Barkley’s only problem. He missed a key block on blitzing Jamal Adams early in the third quarter, and the Jets safety sacked quarterback Daniel Jones, stripped the ball and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.

Adams said the Jets defense had a target on Barkley. “That was our focus,” Adams said. “He’s a great football player, obviously. One of the best backs in the league.”

Barkley, the #2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, had an outstanding first season as he was chosen offensive Rookie of the Year and selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

This year Barkley has 402 rushing yards or four yards a carry with two rushing touchdowns through seven games. But 227 of those yards came in the first two games of the season, including a 59-yard run against the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener. Then he was hurt during the Tampa Bay game after gaining just 10 yards.

In the four games since returning from his injury, he has rushed for just 165 yards on 64 tries — 2.8 yards a carry. He did wow the home crowd with a 65-yard screen pass play against the Cowboys in a losing effort during a recent Monday Night Football game.

If Barkley doesn’t seem to be the same player since his ankle injury two months ago, he refuses to make excuses. His one yard net rushing against the Jets is by far the lowest of his sensational career. The previous game against Dallas he had just 28 rushing yards, his former lowest output.

“Things aren’t going our way right now; we can’t just cry about it; it’s part of football, ” Barkley said. When asked whether he was injured in the Jets’ loss, Barclay deflected the inquiry, saying “next question.”

In announcing the clothing line, Nike said that Barkley’s stock continues to rise and solidifies him as one of the most popular athletes in the NFL. Fans in the super-tough New York City market have embraced not only his talent but also his humility, team loyalty and no-BS approach to his job and the truth.

The clothing line includes a long-sleeved T-shirt, short-sleeved hoodie and hat. All have the official logo, which combines his initials with a lightning bolt “for a superhero-inspired look,” Nike said in its promotional material.

“It’s truly amazing to have my own Nike collection,” Barkley said. “This is a dream I’ve always had as a kid.” The Barkley collection went on sale last Friday. Early reports indicate that sales would have been better if Barkley were having the kind of year he did in 2018.

During his short career, his talents and charisma have paid rich dividends. When Forbes magazine listed its top 100 richest athletes earlier this year, there was Barkley at #93 with earnings of $25.8 million. He also has marketing agreements with Visa, Pepsi, Dunkin’ and Hulu.

Sports analysts branded him as the Giants’ franchise — a key player around whom to build a winning team. So far, this dream has been more than elusive.

The Giants finished last in the National Football Conference’s eastern division last year with a 5-11 record. This year, the Giants are 2-8, with six straight losses and sit in third place in their four-team division, one-half game in front of the cellar-dwelling Washington Redskins.

Last year Barkley had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards, including 1,307 on the ground, next only to the Cowboys’ Zeke Elliott. Barkley also had 91 receptions compared to Elliott’s 77.

As I pointed out in a column when Barkley-mania took hold in these parts last year, playing at the NFL level is a snake pit of dangers, which we hope Barkley avoids. Aside from failing to meet the lofty expectations, he is subject to serious injury and other perils.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

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