But Banks is also still on the Big Blue payroll. The former All-Pro linebacker is the team’s radio analyst, appears on other team-powered platforms and is in the facility on a regular basis. So whatever he says about Barkley, another team employee, has to be considered with that context. Which brings us to his comments on the “Bleav in Giants” podcast he hosts with broadcast partner Bob Papa.
The cliff notes (the full podcast can be heard here): Banks said he does not know the details of Barkley’s talks with the Giants. But he thinks “the kid who has a great smile, is charismatic and is a f–ing great football player” needs to end the stay-away, sign the franchise tag and get to work. Because skipping training camp (and potentially regular season games) will do nothing to change “the system” that has suppressed running back salaries. And Barkley, not the Giants, stands to lose if he tries to send a message.
“You have more value than you have leverage,” Banks said. “The only way your value and your brand value stays high is to do the game that you love, that you’re great at. … I’m saying this, and I would say this to my sons: Don’t be a principled fool.”
Banks said he believes Barkley is one of three “marketable athletes” in New York, the others being Aaron Judge and Aaron Rodgers. He encouraged Barkley to make up the difference with off-field money, suggesting he get a meeting with “branding genius” and cable news talking head Donny Deutsch to “play the long game.”
“The only person this is going to hurt career-wise, as a football player, is you if you sit out,” Banks said. “So come in, come in with your integrity intact. Come in enthusiastic about a game you love to play. You can play it for yourself. Just be great at it. You don’t have to talk to anybody. Just be great at it and smile at it. Because you’re great and you love the game. And this game provides you with all the ancillary things that not many people in this town that play sports can have. And that’s your long game. The system suppressed your salary.”
No one believes Barkley is going to miss regular season games (and paychecks). So put that aside. But he is clearly going to skip training camp. And that is a far more nuanced matter.
Banks is right that Barkley staying home this summer has little tactical value beyond demonstrating how pissed off he is without any significant consequence. But that might be enough for Barkley at this stage of the game. You can make the argument he will not be fully prepared for the season by missing camp. And there may be credence to that. But Barkley is not going to show up for Week 1 out of shape. So the advantages of camp participation, if they exist, are likely negligible at best.
We would quibble with the whole “Barkley can make it all up with marketing dollars” point, though. One, he reportedly already makes a lot. Two, who knows how that Bitcoin thing worked out. Three, is he really as marketable as Banks claims? New York is a baseball town. And Barkley is nowhere near Judge (the American League home run king who plays for the most-storied team in sports history) and Judge (one of the greatest players in NFL history). Is there really any more juice to squeeze out of that orange?
And all of this said: Any time Banks takes a team-friendly stance, his relationship to the team should be acknowledged and considered. As with the rest of the former Giants still on the books or whenever WFAN puts “beat reporter” Paul Dottino on the air. It does not mean their opinions should be discounted. But it does mean they should not be taken as gospel.