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Quotes: OT Andrew Thomas, S Julian Love, WR Darius Slayton

Offensive Tackle Andrew Thomas

Q: After the first couple of years that you've had here with the Giants, you have an opportunity here to make the playoffs. How much would it mean to you personally to get that done?

A: It definitely means a lot. I've never played in the playoffs as long as I've been in the league. It's definitely something you look forward to.

Q: You played in a lot of big college games. How do they compare to the NFL? Is there any lesson that you can take from that to bring to these games going forward?

A: I think it's different. At Georgia, we played some teams that you have a week off playing smaller schools and stuff like that. In the NFL, it's different. Every week, you're going against the best in the world. There's no time off and each game counts for winning.

Q: How about towards the end of the season? Those games get very important. I would think there is a little parallel there, or no?

A: I would say the atmosphere would be similar but I've never been to a playoff game, so I don't know what the playoffs are like.

Q: When did you become a believer? When did this feel possible to you? The last two years, you knew by midseason it wasn't a playoff team. Was it after the Week 1 win, was it before the season even started with the feeling, was it when you went 6-1? When did you know there was something different about these Giants?

A: I would say early into the offseason. Just the way that we gelled, the energy that (head) Coach (Brian) Daboll brought in early. It was just a different feel around the building. Obviously, the first game – it was a great win and I think that just sparked the season from there on.

Q: The last two years, anybody with an outside opinion beat up the Giants offensive line as, 'Not good enough.' Now, that's what people do to the Giants wide receiver room. Like, 'Who are these guys?' 'Not high draft picks,' 'Underproductive,' yet they came out and gave you a big game last week. What have you seen from (wide receiver) Richie James, Darius, (wide receiver) Isaiah Hodgins? These guys that maybe have faced a lot of adversity in their careers and they're kind of your go-to weapons on offense.

A: I would say they're all resilient. They've had their opportunities and they've made the most of them. Regardless of what people say about them or what they may think, when the game is on, they're ready to play, they're playing tough, physical, and making plays for us. We reap the benefits of that.

Q: What have you seen as far as the growth of this offense from Week 1 to now? I know there's been some twists and turns and new faces. Where have you seen the biggest growth overall in this offense?

A: The biggest growth? I would probably say how we started to gel later towards the season. I think earlier in the year, we were really good at running the ball then there was a stretch that we were throwing the ball. I think over the last few games, we've been able to do both really well, and that's what you need to win.

Q: How hard was it to gel with the injuries and different people coming in and out of the lineup?

A: It's not easy. The last few games, we rotated the left guard in different series and that's something that's not easy to overcome. We have a good group of guys, everyone trusts in each other and we go out there and try to make plays.

Q: We've seen Brian Daboll on the sideline get very emotional and hot. You've obviously seen that too. Has that been directed at you personally on the field for something that you've done at any point?

A: It has. I think it was the Chicago game. I had a mental error, went the wrong way. It could have been a big play and he was on me. That's what you want from your leader, to hold you accountable. I'm supposed to be a good player, a captain. When I have a mental lapse like that, obviously he's upset about it.

Q: What does 'on me' mean? How does that manifest itself?

A: Just vibrant, yelling. Whatever it is, just trying to get his point across any way he can.

Q: At that second, you said that's what you want in your coaches, right? At that second, I'm sure you're not thinking, 'Boy, this is terrific. I'm glad he's yelling at me.' Is there a process that you have to go through where you get mad at him, then you get mad at yourself and then you correct the error? How does that work in your head?

A: I have pride for myself, so I'm already frustrated before he even says anything. I try to have a high level of expectations for myself regardless of what coaches may say. By the time he came over there, I already knew what I needed to do and fixed it the next few drives.

Q: Some coaches kind of keep that level up a lot. He seems to do it, get it out of his system, maybe go on to the next person. How would you describe him as far as his level of temperament overall?

A: I would say he has energy whether we're doing good or doing bad. If there's something that he needs to fix, he's going to be (inaudible) by that and let you know. If we make a good play, he's going to have the same energy and uplift us. I think he's an emotional coach and that's just how he is, but we appreciate it.

Q: I know you've told me before that running the ball is harder than passing the ball and that's why a lot of teams pass the ball. My question is, do you think you showed something to the NFL and to opponents with the way you guys passed the ball against the Vikings? Did that even catch you by surprise, the ability to do that?

A: I think that starts with our coaching staff. That's the beauty of our play calling, whatever is working that day is what we're going to do. If we're running the ball well, we're going to run the ball and if we're passing it well, we're going to pass it. I think that started with DJ, he did a great job, (and) the receivers getting open. The offensive line, we've got to be better in pass protection because I think we left some plays out there, just pressure in his face for DJ. But I think he did a great job.

Safety Julian Love

Q: I wanted to ask about the offense, obviously you guys practice against them every day, can you just reflect a little bit (on) the growth you've seen from the offense from Week 1 basically to where they are now?

A: I think they've done a great job all year of just kind of building on what they do well. It really is a tribute to guys who are good players playing well. Seeing (running back) Saquon (Barkley) do his thing, seeing (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) do his thing, the young guys stepping up, (tackle) Andrew Thomas stepping into a role of his own. It's like guys are just taking more accountability of their play. It's been feeding off of each other and it's been pretty contagious. They've done a great job all year of just sustaining drives, winning critical situations, and putting us in a position to win.

Q: On defense you guys are used to swapping guys out, substituting and what not. On offense you want some continuity, obviously on the offensive line and certain positions. They've had to have a lot of different personnel changes due to injuries, how challenging has that been for them and how have they responded?

A: I think they've responded pretty well. It's tough I feel like when you have an offense that we all knew was a little more complicated going into the season that had a lot of tools that it was able to use. It's tough to just plug and play somebody, as it is on defense more so. The guys that they've been bringing in have done a great job. I think a prime example is (wide receiver) Isaiah (Hodgins) – he's been balling. He's a guy who's familiar with the system but that kind of smart, tough, dependable quality that he's been showing has been crucial for us down this stretch.

Q: Did you watch the Colts game last night by yourself, with any friends, whoever? Did you watch it from like a 'we play them next' scouting standpoint? How do you look at (Colts quarterback) Nick Foles? Do you look at him as a third-string quarterback or the Super Bowl MVP a couple of years ago?

A: I watched it at home with my wife. I watched it like it was normal game, didn't really try to over analyze it because we have time to do that. I just wanted to get a feel for kind of how they were playing. We all know what Nick Foles is capable of and you have to be prepared for that. He's a guy who's been there, who has accomplished great things. He's a guy you can't sleep on quite frankly. He has experience that you need to be on your a-game for sure.

Q: Can you relate to the receivers a little? We know you've been through the ringer here in your career as far as starting, benched, backups, a glue guy, and now you're starting three guys at receiver with (wide receiver) Richie James, (wide receiver) Darius (Slayton), and Isaiah who have certainly not had easy paths to being starters. Can you relate to them in the job that they've done hanging in and becoming playmakers for you here?

A: Yeah, I can relate. I think the average fan pays more attention to offense than defense, so they probably have it worse than I did because to be in this city, to play for the Giants, you've got to be mentally tough as well as do what you've got to do on the field. So, that's a challenge for my guy – I'll just relate to Darius Slayton – has done a tremendous job of dealing with pressure from everyone but staying true to himself and continuing to work. His play has shown, and I think he's been balling this year and he's been consistent. You have other guys stepping up, like I said Isaiah and Richie have been just dynamic all year. I can relate a little bit to them, but I would say they're doing an even better job because of what they do on offense.

Q: It seems like you guys are mostly following (head coach Brian) Daboll's lead here with blocking out the ramifications of this game and focusing on the game. How hard is that when you've been through all that you, Slayton and all the other guys who have been here for four or five years without success have been through?

A: I mean it's tough for sure. None of us are naïve in the sense that we don't know if we win this game what it means. That's on the back of all of our minds, but you've got to stay true to what we've been doing all season. For me that's to stay in my routine, that's attacking, playing with high effort, and giving our defense a place to stand at all times. If I just do my job, hopefully we get the win we all know what happens if we do that.

Q: Obviously you all want to do that and make the playoffs. I would think that a guy like (safety) Xavier (McKinney) is really pushing for you guys to make the playoffs because that probably increases his chances of getting back on the field this year. Has he expressed that to you guys at all?

A: Yeah, he is a guy who is very passionate about the game. I'm sure it's been killing him to not be out there with us. Him, all of the guys who have been out, I think you want just another week, another shot to get back at it. Xavier – he's chomping at the bit; he's getting ready to go for sure.

Q: You know your head coach better than we do. The public face that he shows is very calm, cool, collected, sometimes a little monotone. That is probably not the face he shows you most often. Which is the real Brian Daboll do you think?

A: That's a good question. I mean, he's monotone with y'all? I don't think he's monotone ever with us (laughs). He's a passionate guy, he's a guy who loves competition. I think that's something that he's brought out in me, is that sense of having fun just competing against guys in whatever it is. Whether it's Madden, whether it's ping pong, whether it's a chip shot challenge. Throughout this whole year that's who he is. He's a passionate guy whose kind of a kid at heart, in terms of that competitive drive and spirit he has. That's shown I think throughout the team, especially like I said, with me. He is one way with some people, and he shows his heart with the guys because he cares a lot about this team.

Q: Now the camera shows him during games getting heated at players, certainly at officials. Have you seen that side of him directed right at you?

A: No, I don't give people a reason to yell at me head on like that (laughs). But he has been fired up. I mess with him in a way where he's not really coming at me in a way like that. You see it sometimes on the sideline, it's just his spirit, he's fieriness showing itself. Whether it's on refs, whether it's on Daniel, any of these guys, it's all love. But no, I haven't had the fortune of getting that treatment yet.

Q: So, you've made no mistakes I guess?

A: He looks at me, (and) he must have a soft heart. He doesn't want to yell at me too much. I'll put it to that.

Q: If you guys do make the playoffs, what would that mean to you? What do you think will go through your mind as it's happening?

A: It would mean the world to me. I'm a competitor. I'm a guy who has tried to be as consistent as I possibly can during good times, during bad times, I think you know what to expect when it comes to me. That's been a constant for years, for the past four years. I haven't been to the playoffs in the league yet. I've achieved that goal in college, I've achieved that goal in high school of course, so I'm excited. I'm excited to have a shot. This position is pretty exciting that we can control our destiny. It's going to mean a lot, but I know I have to lock in on the process of this week just so I can be that consistent guy I've always been for the team as we prepare for the Colts.

Q: We can't get Brian to even say the word playoffs, does he say it to you guys?

A: We're all grown men in this building and on this team. We understand what this game means, we win and we're in. I think his approach has been great because he lays it out obviously, we know what we have in front of us, but don't get outside yourself. Don't do some stupid (stuff) because of the increased ramifications. Just stay true, and that's why I think he's not even mentioning it because he's just treating it like another week. A week that we have to really get after it. We have a lot of things to correct, we have a lot of things to build off of, and I think that's where that comes from. It's not out of a sense of denying what's going to happen, just in a sense of keeping his guys locked in on just being themselves.

Wide Receiver Darius Slayton

Q: Obviously, getting your head coach (Brian Daboll) to talk about the playoffs to us is not something that most of us are capable of getting out of him. He just refuses. Does he show you guys a little different face in the locker room, behind closed doors, and discuss what this is all about this time of year?

A: I think everybody's aware of our situation and kind of what the reality is for a lot of teams around the NFL this time of year. At the end of the day, you can only focus on the week you have, and the opponent you have ahead of you, and the rest of that will take care of itself.

Q: He can be very, very emotional on the sideline, obviously, and very stoic off, maybe on the podium and things like that. Is that a correct read on him? Have you seen times when he's really hot? And describe that to me if you would.

A: Football is an emotional game. He puts a lot of time into this. We all put a lot of time into this, a lot of effort into this. So, when you're playing in a game, you're in a highly contested game like most of the games that we've been in this year, it's going to be emotional. You're going to be excited sometimes. You're probably going to be disappointed sometimes. You're going to be angry. I think that's just part of the ebbs and flows of the game.

Q: You mention that you've been in a lot of highly contested, close games. It's not easy. You don't want to get blown out, and you wouldn't mind having a big score lead on another team. Do you think that has helped in some way, maybe down the stretch in some of these games, that this team is kind of used to this?

A: For sure. I think once you get to the playoffs, the difficulty level of winning each of those games throughout the round just increases. And the odds of you blowing somebody out goes down more and more week after week. So, the reality is you're going to have to win close games in order to have success throughout the playoffs. So, I definitely think playing more of those throughout the season helps.

Q: When did you think that this was possible if we gave you truth serum and you had to tell us? Obviously, your first three years were difficult here in terms of wins and losses. When did you? Was it after Week 1 (win)? Was it when Dabs got here, and it felt different? When did you truly believe like, 'Oh, this is going to be different than the last three years,'?

A: It's hard to say because in every sport I've ever played, everything I've ever done in my life, I always expect to win. I don't ever go into a season or into a game thinking my team is going to lose. So, coming into the season I knew we had the talent. That's kind of where it starts, and then we have a close-knit locker room: a lot of good players, a lot of good guys that believe in each other. After that, it's about going out there and executing. That's always kind of the great unknown for every team in the NFL. You don't know how people are going to gel together and play together. But I always had belief, way back in (training) camp when we were going into the season Week 1, that we could be whatever we needed to be.

Q: In Week 1, you didn't play. It's crazy the kind of turn your individual season has taken. What do you think you've shown the Giants or the league that maybe you already knew about yourself? What do you think this season has shown about you and how you belong in this league?

A: I think it just shows I love ball. I feel like a lot of people probably that might've been in my predicament might've gotten down or stopped maybe giving effort or not trying to get themselves out of that predicament. But I truly love playing football. So, even though I was inactive in Week 1, I didn't want that to be my predicament. But as long as I got my health and I can play ball and I can go out there and practice, I believe in myself. And I believe in my ability.

Q: You're a free agent, obviously, whenever this season ends: two games, four games, eight games, whatever you have left. Do you want to stay here? Have you thought about that? It just seems like you did all the bad times, and you're a free agent when the times are getting good. How do you look at your future?

A: I haven't thought about it too much. It's hard to project because it's like kind of once you get into the season, there's such a rhythm to it. You go to practice; you're preparing for the next opponent. Then boom – you look up, and it's game day. I kind of just been trying to make sure I perform to the best of my ability and like I said earlier, those things tend to work themselves out as long as you perform well.

Q: You guys seem to be following Coach Daboll's lead with this mentality going into this game. Is that hard to do? You must be over the moon about what this game means for you and this team.

A: I'm mostly just excited to be playing competitive, meaningful football. I think that's something that since I've been in the league, I haven't really had a chance to do very much. I'm just grateful for all these games that are going to be highly contested. And obviously, we're going to go out there and do our best to get the win in all of them.

Q: What have you seen from (wide receiver) Isaiah (Hodgins) since he got here? And what has he added to the passing game for you guys?

A: He's been very consistent for us. He's done a great job moving the sticks. He's a little bit bigger-bodied of a guy. And he does a good job of making contested catches, making catches in the middle of the field – that type of deal. But as he showed the other day, he hit (Vikings cornerback) Patrick Peterson with a double move, and he got down the field a little bit, too. Sometimes, he tends to maybe overthink his speed a little bit (laughs), but he can run. So, he's been a good addition to our team and I'm glad to have him.

Q: Can you just reflect a moment on the growth of this offense from Week 1 to where it is now? How far has it come? And how much further until it reaches the proverbial ceiling?

A: To be honest, it's changed so much as far as the people, some of the things we try to do now that maybe we weren't doing earlier. It's been a lot of movement, but I think we found a way to put the pieces together and get some continuity going and get some rhythm going. Hopefully, we can keep it going.

Q: We always hear about how if a receiver knows a system, that they generally can come in and hit the ground running. But there's also a degree of building up chemistry with the quarterback. Can you just speak to how Isaiah has built up that chemistry – what you've seen?

A: I think it's kind of like you said – him being very familiar with the system. He's been in the system. It's now his fourth year. So, almost to some degree, he has a leg up on pretty much all of us. This is our first year being in it. He understands the ins and outs. He understands what Daboll and Kaf (offensive coordinator Mike Kafka) are looking for in certain looks and things like that. So, I think all of those things help him to accelerate his chemistry with DJ (quarterback Daniel Jones) and things like that.

Q: How would you describe the receiver room at this point? You're three guys that weren't supposed to be in this position at this point in the season, and you all have sort of your own little comeback stories. How would you describe that room at this point?

A: That kind of is, I guess, how it would seem. But I think everybody in our room has the ability; everybody in our room has talent. This league's really just about waiting for your opportunity and when you get your opportunity, capitalizing on it. I think that's kind of the guys that we have playing for us right now, that's the type of guys that we are – people that might not have had as many opportunities that we would've liked to have in the past, but now they're getting them, they're taking advantage of them and that's what this league is all about.

Q: Have you ever talked to those other two guys? Like (wide receiver) Richie (James), obviously, was benched for a little bit. You know what that was like early on. And Isaiah, really, this is his first opportunity ever. Have you talked to those two guys about those things?

A: Yeah, I mean it's crazy because Isaiah wasn't even here this year until Week 9. He didn't even start the season with us. So, it just goes to show that in this league, there's so much movement. You never know what's going to happen. You just always have to be ready.

Q: Would you say that you guys all have some sort of chip on your shoulder?

A: No doubt. I think we all have something to prove. I don't think that we've proven whatever it is that we've got to prove yet. We still got to do more. So, it's definitely not a time for any of us to get complacent. I think like I said, we've done a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities that we've gotten, and hopefully, we continue to get them.

Q: You guys kind of were the underdog most of the season. I don't think people outside the building really expected a lot from you guys as a whole. Does that change anything going into this game? Like do you notice that – that now that you're expected to win and you kind of need to win this week?

A: I don't think it changes anything because, like you said, we've been the (under)dog a lot in games this year that we've won. So, being the favorite or being the dog ultimately doesn't determine whether or not you win or lose the game. It's the NFL. They've got good players. So, you got to go out there and play and execute, take care of the football, and do the things you got to do to win the game.

Q: Do you think it adds pressure this week, though?

A: I don't think so. It's kind of like I said: Everybody's got good players. So, it's no different than it would've been last week, playing the Vikings who are whatever they are – two seed in the NFC. I don't think it's any different. All of these teams have good players. All of these games are games you got to win in theory if you think about it. Even if we were 12 and whatever, we would probably be trying to get the one seed like the Eagles are doing. So, every game is important. No game is just, 'Oh, we can just go out here and slack off and let this one go.'

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