It’s not that Saquon Barkley doesn’t hear you. It’s that he’d like you to give it a rest, already.
“Obviously, people are going to have their opinion on it,” Penn State’s All-America tailback told Land of 10 recently when asked about critics who say he should sit out the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30 because of the injury risk. “Like I said, at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is mine. And I’m going to play for my teammates, and that’s essentially it.”
We’re ankles-deep into bowl hot-take season, and among the hottest national narratives kicking around the HTMLs is whether Barkley, the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year and a lead-pipe cinch — if healthy — to be among the top 10 picks in next spring’s NFL draft, would be wise to follow the lead of 2016 running back prospects Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey.
Last winter, LSU’s Fournette and Stanford’s McCaffrey elected to sit out the Citrus and Sun bowls, respectively, rather than play in postseason contests with no impact on the College Football Playoff or the New Year’s Six games. Fournette wound up being plucked No. 4 overall by Jacksonville in the 2017 draft; McCaffrey went at No. 8 to Carolina. Both the Tigers and Cardinal won their postseason matchups.
Also, two words that strike fear into the withering heart of every NFL agent: Jake Butt.
At this time last year, Butt had won the 2016 Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end while a senior at Michigan. But during the first half of the Orange Bowl, he blew out the ACL in his right knee after a 16-yard catch against Florida State. Damaged goods, Butt was taken in the fifth round by Denver in the 2017 draft and has spent all of his rookie season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
“It’s just not worth it,” Pro Football Focus analyst Josh Liskiewitz said. “And I would’ve said that before last year and Jake Butt’s whole injury. I just think it’s an unnecessary risk.
“If they win this bowl game, great, but he’s not going to go down in Penn State lore because they win this bowl game. That’s not why people remember him. This bowl game is not going to be his legacy at Penn State.”
The rebuttal? The Fiesta Bowl is a New Year’s Six stage against a marquee opponent in Washington (10-2), and the Lions (10-2) are a win away from posting back-to-back seasons of at least 11 victories for the first time since 2008-2009. Every offensive player taken among the top 10 in the 2017 draft appeared in their respective school’s bowl game save for the first two tailbacks off the board: Fournette and McCaffrey.
‘That’s why you play a sport, and I’m going to play for those guys.’
— Penn State star tailback Saquon Barkley on his participation in the Fiesta Bowl
“I think he ought to play — he’s a star, get out there,” countered Ourlads.com general manager Dan Shonka, a former scout with Philadelphia, Washington and Kansas City. “His teammates helped put him on the map and get where he’s going.
“And I understand — McCaffrey’s a great kid and all that. But McCaffrey is not as durable as Barkley. I think Barkley can put on a show and finish up  like he started versus USC in the Rose Bowl. He can put an exclamation point on his great career.”
Or he can kiss a knee ligament — and several million guaranteed NFL dollars — goodbye.
Say you’re Saquon Barkley. You’re going to be a top 5 pick, but not make the playoff. There is absolutely no reason to play in the bowl game
— Mike Nash (@MikeNash15) November 26, 2017
I wouldn’t play in the Fiesta Bowl if I was Saquon Barkley
— W I L D C A R D (@Wildcard_Sounds) December 5, 2017
Would you play in the bowl game if you were Saquon Barkley?
— Bill (@pay_your_bills) December 6, 2017
Roll them bones.
Bros before dough.
“That’s why you play a sport, and I’m going to play for those guys,” Barkley said of his Lions teammates.
“And like I said, if they all came out and said they didn’t want me to play, and if I made the decision that I was going to, then I probably wouldn’t play at the end of the day. But right now, that’s where my mind’s at and that’s what I’m going with.”